Mental health, pandemic and poverty

Jaimito recently died in tragic conditions, as he was affectionately known, something that many public officials who worked at the CAN facilities in Bogotá particularly appreciated. This death, caused by mental health problems, puts the finger on the condition of many elderly people, unemployed due to the pandemic, without a pension and affected by confinement; This leads to timely reflections in times of presidential campaigns.

The first reflection arises on the complex combination of poverty, unemployment and confinement, associated with mental health. Speaking at an Anif seminar, psychiatrist Rodrigo Córdoba said the pandemic in Colombia is leaving “an elephant print” on the mental health of Colombians through, among other things, panic attacks, excessive and recurrent worrying and anxiety. In this regard, JK Rowling, in her speech at the graduation ceremony for Harvard students, commented: “poverty brings fear and stress, and sometimes depression”, referring to her own experience and that of his parents. Mental health is a pressing issue that requires special and immediate attention, particularly from public health.

Jaimito’s difficulties were associated with the lack of educational opportunities, in addition to not having a pension; These lead to a second and a third reflection respectively: an accessible and quality education system is necessary for low-income families, especially in rural areas where the pandemic and corruption have reduced school attendance. The Colombian education system must be revolutionized once and for all; many governments and ministers have promoted important reforms, policies and programs with great but still insufficient progress. Without better quality education and more opportunities, it will be impossible to build a country with less poverty and greater possibilities for development. On the other hand, the Colombian pension system has low coverage and discriminates against the poorest and most informal; an old-age protection system is needed to resolve the above. The figures speak for themselves: pensioner coverage was 23% in 2019 (Banco de la República) and in the lowest income decile, only 0.2% are affiliated and no pensioners (Anif).

Major reform proposals are needed to give people like Jaimito a second chance; However, these aspirations must be serious and carry a better future for all. As Shafik mentions of disenchantment with globalization and the effects of the pandemic, “we are at a moment in history when new decisions have to be made…and with a great sense of national unity where class interests do not predominate or divide.In any case, it is not the transition from oil to tourism, nor the return to the old health system, nor the end of pension funds that will ensure this new opportunity; and, yes, the great advances made throughout this century will be lost, and perhaps also many freedoms gained

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