This is the image that greets me when I walk into Hospital Rivadavia in Buenos Aires to see a psychologist called Delfina. Delfina means dolphin, which is my power animal. I’ve never been offered a talking therapy in the UK and when I asked if it was possible to see a psychotherapist, I was told, ‘No’ and put on a long waiting list to see a counsellor instead. But here in Argentina, even as a foreigner, I’ve been given immediate access to an English speaking psychologist for free! YES FOR FREE!
There are more psychiatrists in Buenos Aires than anywhere else in the world. At first I thought this was perhaps because more people needed them but now I think it is because their mental health care is better. There is more direct contact between the patient and the psychiatrist, in terms of time and quality of relationship. The psychiatrists I have met feel more human to me and less professionally distant.
Last time I was here, 8 months ago, I got insomnia and didn’t sleep for the first week. I struggled to function so I went to hospital to get help. I was put under the care of a lovely man called Salvador, which means saviour. The significance of these names is not lost on me! He came to see me every day, even when I moved into a different clinic. Consultant psychiatrists in the UK attend a ward round perhaps once a week, if you’re lucky. Salvador would spend up to an hour with me, like a visitor. He wanted to personally make sure I was OK and improving day by day.
Salvador told me that family is very important in Argentina and he didn’t want to discharge me from the hospital without me having one to go to. He said I was well enough to leave but whilst he was responsible for my care he didn’t feel it was OK to send me off on my own. So my mother flew out to get me.
Having been through the mental health care system of a developing country I have direct experience of these ‘exceptionally good social outcomes’. It shows you the importance of human relationships in mental wellbeing.
Recovered and undeterred, I’m back in Buenos Aires again to pursue my passion for tango, secure in the knowledge that caring and compassionate people have got my back.