Reality of Mental Health in Puerto Rico

The Reality of Mental Health in Puerto Rico and Opening Paths to Well-being

Mental health conditions can cast a heavy cloud over our lives and the demand for mental health services in Puerto Rico has soared in the last three years. Additionally, our island has a shortage of mental health professionals, limited resources, and a stigma surrounding conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. That’s an alarm bell for our wellbeing!

Increase in Demand for Mental Health Services

Did you know? The PAS crisis hotline (offered by Administración de Servicios de Salud Mental y Contra la Adicción, aka ASSMCA) received over 900,000 calls in 2020, compared to 170,000 in 2019.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. Life in Puerto Rico has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, with a series of devastating events leaving their mark. From the destructive Hurricane María in 2017 to earthquakes, flooding, and even Hurricane Fiona, it feels like the hits just keep on coming. Let’s not forget the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic that have rattled our lives. These crises have unleashed a whirlwind of circumstances leading to trauma and emotional distress, including higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance use disorder, and depression. It’s no wonder we’re feeling the weight of it all.

Alarming Statistics

Puerto Rico has a huge lack of mental health services for its citizens, and statistics shed light on this need:

  • 25% of the population in Puerto Rico suffers from a mental health condition.

  • Around 18% of the population in Puerto Rico suffers from anxiety.
  • 10% of the population lives with severe depression.
  • In 2020, the last year for which data are available, there were 167 suicides. 
  • Suicide rates were highest amongst groups of people between the ages of 50-54 and 55-59. However, suicides are often underreported.
  • Only 18% of Puerto Ricans have received federally funded mental health services after Hurricane María.

  • Up to 36.5% of Puerto Ricans living with difficult mental health conditions do not receive the help they need to improve or at least stabilize their wellbeing.

But statistics only tell part of the story – let’s dive deeper into the context behind these eye-opening numbers. The aftermath of natural disasters like Hurricane Maria exacted a devastating toll on our mental health. In just one year, 253 Puerto Ricans lost their lives to suicide. This represents just one example of the immense challenges we have endured from our basic needs being compromised.

This isn’t limited to Puerto Ricans living at home. Research conducted in 2019 revealed that our community reports higher rates of major depressive disorder compared to the general US population, whether they live on the island or mainland USA. We also have the highest substance overdose death rates among Latin American communities. These facts may be difficult to confront, but turning a blind eye to them won’t solve the problem.

Factors contributing to to the problem

A main factor contributing to this issue is the shortage of mental health providers. The departure of physicians and clinical therapists from the island has created a significant gap in the support system we rely on. The need for mental health services continues to skyrocket, but the available resources simply can’t match the demand. Long wait times for appointments and limited access to care have become all too common. Many individuals are left without the necessary resources to address their mental health needs, and it’s leaving a hidden wound on our community.

The sum of these challenges weighs heavily on our young Puerto Ricans. They have endured compounding natural disasters over the last five years. Along with the blackouts and lack of mental health care, now the government plans to close 83 schools by 2026. This will only intensify the disruption of their educational environment and the loss of community connections. We simply must do better.

The good news is that solutions are sprouting. At Pravan Foundation we have made it our mission to combat these growing challenges. Through telepsychiatry sessions, school-based healing programs, and targeted support for patients with chronic conditions, grief counseling, and community counseling, we’re working tirelessly to meet the growing need for mental health services.

Remember, your mental health matters. Reach out, seek support, and embrace the journey toward inner balance and wellness. You deserve to thrive, and we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Local Programs & Nonprofit Organizations

Aqui Nos Cuidamos

Promotes mental health and substance abuse prevention through awareness, support, and reducing stigma.

Direct Relief

Humanitarian organization that provides medical assistance and disaster relief worldwide, including in Puerto Rico. They collaborate with local healthcare providers to deliver essential medical supplies and support during emergencies.


Unite for Healing: Your Contribution, Puerto Rico's Transformation.

Embark on a journey of transformation with the Pravan Foundation. Your generous donation becomes a beacon of hope, illuminating the path to mental wellness for countless individuals in Puerto Rico. Together, let’s break down barriers, ushering in a new era of mental health and well-being.

Make a difference today – your contribution is the cornerstone of change, healing, and renewed hope across the island. Join us, and be the change that Puerto Rico needs. Unite for healing, unite for transformation, unite for a brighter tomorrow.

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