Mental health in Venezuela

VEnezuela is going through the most difficult political-economic crisis in its contemporary history. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its global economic outlook report for 2018-19, predicts that this country will have an inflation of 10,000,000% in 2019 and projects that its economy will fall by 18% this year and its GDP will decrease. next year 5%. According to data provided in March by the Venezuelan National Assembly, product prices increased by 53.7 percent during February, a decrease compared to the 191.6 percent accumulated during the previous month.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) included Venezuela among the countries at high risk of food security in its quarterly report in April 2019 on food security, where it ensures that in In the coming months, the food security situation is not expected to improve. In addition to Venezuela, the other countries at high risk according to this analysis are: Yemen, South Sudan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Haiti.

For the Bengoa Foundation and the Venezuelan Health Observatory (OVS), according to their national report published in December 2018, Venezuela has been going through a Complex Humanitarian Emergency since 2015 that severely compromises the human right to food of its 31.8 million inhabitants. and especially of populations and communities in extreme poverty due to the effects of hunger and malnutrition. Likewise, the Social Development Commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly indicates that there is an 88% shortage of medicines.

According to all this data, it can be deduced that people with some psychopathology are directly affected by the shortage of medications, leading them to a torpid course of their illness. Now, what happens to the Venezuelan who does not present any mental health problem? To answer this question and because until now there was no data from any study on the subject, an analysis will be carried out from paradigms of different approaches in relation to various psychotherapeutic currents, for this it is necessary to know what mental health or behavioral health is.

Mental health or behavioral health

Having a concrete or unified definition of mental or behavioral health has been difficult since the use of the term, since in applied psychology the term behavioral health is usually used, in addition there is the fact of carrying something as subjective and complex as behavior. , thoughts, belief systems and culture, to something objective and concrete such as a definition. Durkheim wrote: “If we find an objective criterion, inherent in the facts themselves, that allows us to scientifically distinguish health from illness in the various orders of social phenomena, science will find itself in a position to illuminate practice without betraying its own method.” ”. The author warns about the complexity of the task and hence the debate that exists to have a unified definition, where an epistemological depth is necessary.

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The definition of mental health is therefore not a pseudoscientific imposture that is limited to enshrining social values ​​and prejudices. However, it is not a value-free definition and it is also a construction, essential in psychology, that could be confused with a term exclusive to an approach from the perspective of basic psychology. That is why not only one concept is proposed about it, but several concepts that make room for data, categories and principles widely accepted today in psychology. But its presentation here is a conceptual and theoretical proposal from the paradigms, derived, in itself, from empirical findings.

Some psychopathology treatises begin by dedicating a few pages to delimiting and describing the mental disorder in its generality, where mental health can be understood as the absence of mental illness. Now mental health is much more complex. Maher points out, as psychopathological indicators, the expression by the subject of “feelings of anguish or unhappiness, his propensity for disabling behavior that restricts him in the execution of his daily obligations and the lack of contact with reality.”

Skinner indicates that mental illness is related to “certain forms of behavior that are disturbing or dangerous to the individual or others” and also that “causes certain discomfort” to the individual. A double criterion of annoyance versus well-being and of disturbance or not, serves in this analysis.

Jahoda mentioned three typical traits of the person with mental health: 1) displaying an active adjustment, trying to achieve some control of their environment; 2) a realistic perception of herself and her world; 3) a certain unity and stable personal integration. The traits or criteria can be more numerous, almost always adding well-being or psychological suffering as a characteristic of the health or disorder.

For the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which the individual is aware of his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is capable of to make a contribution to your community.

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In Venezuela, there is an important etiological variable for the alteration of mental or behavioral health: the hostile environment.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), mental health is conceived as the way in which our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affect our lives. Good mental health leads us to have a positive image of ourselves and, at the same time, fosters satisfying relationships with friends and other people.

Likewise, Bergeret affirms that “a human being is in a normal state, whatever his deep personal problems may be, when he manages to manage them and adapt to himself and others, without becoming internally paralyzed.” Also regarding the health pole, and not only that of disorder, Freedman and Kaplan speak very concisely: “a state of emotional health in which the person is able to function comfortably within society.”


After having described different definitions of mental health, the etiology of mental illness must be studied. We understand etiology as the branch of science that is responsible for the study and analysis of the cause or genesis of things, phenomena or situations. In psychology, etiology looks for the causes that an individual has different cognitions or beliefs, whether or not they perform a specific behavior, or the factors that cause a mental disorder. In this area, the study of causes is relatively more complex, given that mental phenomena are not directly observable. It is necessary to extrapolate the information from the relationships established between different variables.

Etiological Variables:

  • Hereditary attributes: history of family members with mental disorders.
  • Environment: exposure to a stressful or hostile environment.
  • Organic: due to an alteration, metabolic disorders, hormonal disorders, tumors, physical trauma, etc.

I understand that Venezuela is going through one of the most difficult crises in its contemporary history with the highest inflation worldwide, shortages of food and medicine, which makes it a hostile environment which represents an etiological variable to alter the mental health of the Venezuelan. In addition to the vulnerability that those who have a family history of mental disorders or those who suffer from an organic disease may have.

Now, it can be understood that the mental health of Venezuelans is altered by at least the etiological variable of the environment, but knowing the consequences and the number of people who are affected becomes very difficult without the existence of a study, although in My empirical experience shows that a significant number of people manifest, as Maher points out, feelings of anguish, unhappiness and incapacitating behavior in the execution of their daily obligations due to the hostile environment.

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Likewise, it is important to take into consideration that each human being responds differently to any situation or stimulus, where the response will depend on their learning and belief system, as expressed by Bergeret, who indicates the existence of mental health when a person ” “whatever his deep personal problems are, when he manages to manage them and adapt to himself and others, without becoming internally paralyzed.” Despite the existence of a hostile environment, being an important factor in altering mental health, not all Venezuelans have an alteration in their mental health, which leads us to the critical question: if by resolving the conflicts generated by the crisis, has the person significantly accepted or not their ability to adapt to the hostile environment, while maintaining their capacity for pleasure?


After analyzing some important aspects of the crisis in Venezuela, as well as approaching the definition of mental or behavioral health and an etiological description of mental illness, it can be concluded that:

  • In Venezuela, there is an important etiological variable for the alteration of mental or behavioral health: the hostile environment. We need research to know the impact of this variable on the mental health of this population.
  • Depending on the person’s response and their tools to confront the hostile environment, mental or behavioral health will be altered. It is undoubtedly a perfect environment to study topics such as resilience and the factors that contribute to developing it.

Bibliographic references:

  • APA (2019) Change Your Mind About Mental Health, American Psychological Association Website:
  • Begona. (2018). Complex Humanitarian Emergency In Venezuela Right To Food. National Report, 1, 2-9.

  • Bergeret, J. (2008) Normal and Pathological Personality Gedisa Editorial, United States

  • Casado, E. (2001). Thought and creativity. In Towards a research psychology (43-70). Caracas: Central University of Venezuela.

  • Delgado, M. (2019). Venezuela’s inflation slows but remains exorbitantly high. March 29,2019, del Nuevo Herald Website:

  • Durkheim, E. (1978). The rules of the sociological method, Madrid, Morata.

  • Fierro, A. (2000). Mental (Behavioral) Health: A Conceptual Model. Journal of General and Applied Psychology, 53, 147-164

  • Freedman, A. Kaplan, H. & Sadock, B. (1982). Psychiatry treatise 2a. Edition

  • Herrera, F. (2007). Psychopathic personalities. Zulia: Alfaguaras Editions.

  • Jahoda, M. (1955). Toward a social…