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Miércoles 11 de Enero de 2023

Mental health for the country that we are: a multicultural Chile

By Andrea Riedemann, Researcher at the Institute for Research and Postgraduate Studies, FACSALUD.

Because of the various problems that have arisen due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the population’s mental health, in October 2022, the Chilean government began the implementation of the "Building Mental Health" strategy.

On occasions like these, which are very laudable for strengthening public policy in this area, it is common for the authorities to talk to and refer to the Chilean population. The latter generates suspicions; as we wonder about the migrants residing in our country, where do we include them?

The phenomenon of migration that has taken place in Chile in the last three decades has caused our country to diversify. According to data compiled by the Jesuit Migrant Service, in 2020, 7.5% of the resident population in Chile was foreign. Therefore, having the migrant population present in public addresses – by replacing, for example, "Chileans" with "the various people who live in Chile" - is not only a way of recognizing them but also contributes to the recognition that Chile is a multicultural country. As a matter of fact, it has always been this way: the territory on which the State of Chile was founded was inhabited by people belonging to different indigenous peoples and people of different nationalities – in short, culturally diverse people. The migration does not mark the beginning of multiculturalism in the country, although it has undoubtedly deepened it and made it more visible.

In recent years, some universities have researched the mental health of migrants in Chile. These show various challenges to training mental health professionals in the country, given that, occasionally, migrants have mental health needs that differ from those of the resident population in Chile that have never migrated.

In the words of Rodrigo Sandoval, former Head of the Department of Immigration and Migration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and current professor at the Central University, from the point of view of the skills with which they hope to equip their future graduates, it is relevant that universities take charge of migration as a dimension present in all their formative emphases.

With a growing foreign population, a university that does not consider the specifics of migration is depriving its professionals of being capable of responding to an essential part of those who will require their attention in the future. And finally, considering the relevance of professional training constantly receiving updated input from the field of research, there is also a call to consider the various aspects of the migratory phenomenon as relevant issues to continue to be investigated.