Medicalisation in public primary mental health care services in Chile

Jorge Luis Crespo Suárez, Raudelio Machin Suárez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The integration of mental health services into primary care is a globally acclaimed strategy to close the treatment gap for mental disorders, but it has also been criticised for encouraging the medicalisation of everyday life. In Chile, this strategy has gained support and spread quickly in the last decades, and today, all primary public care centres have incorporated a mental health service. However, although some reports highlight problems that have arisen with integrated primary care, the critical social analysis of its impact on services, teams and communities is scarce. This article aims to analyse how primary public mental healthcare services (PPMHSs) in Chile could be contributing to medicalise life. Health policies, reports, evidence from research on local public health issues and the author’s experience are examined to develop the arguments. It is suggested that issues with the universal health access and integrated primary public care policies and the institutionalised use of standard classifications of mental disorders support the survival of a reductionist biomedical disease model and a trend to psychopathologise life. We conclude that these factors underpin the medicalisation of everyday life in primary public mental healthcare services in Chile. Critical engagement with daily practice is necessary to prevent PPMHSs from disempowering people and communities by providing them with medicalised solutions, instead of generating agency in their everyday problem-solving behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-330
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Theory and Health
Issue number4
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020


  • Biomedical model
  • Chile
  • Medicalisation
  • Mental health
  • Primary care
  • Psychopathologisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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