One highlight of our seminar in Mexico City this week was our visit to the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery. During our visit we were able to connect with the social work department at the institute, which helps UNAM social work students complete thesis projects at undergraduate and graduate levels as well as social work internships. During our visit, we learned how health problems are often linked to social issues.
Social Work students at the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Mexico City.
The institute, created in 1964, has remained a leading research and training center in neurological science for 4 decades. The institute is dedicated to research, teaching, diagnosis, and treatment. They care for patients with chronic degenerative neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. They also care for neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, which constitute a serious public health problem. Brian tumors and other neurosurgical entities are also a growing area of treatment. In addition, the institute is connected with university students from Mexico and abroad for masters and doctoral programs in medicine.
As one of the social workers explained to us, denial of mental illness is a problem in Mexican culture. Mental illness just isn’t very well recognized, and people with mental illness are viewed as crazy. Therefore, people put a lot of blame on themselves for their illness. The social worker explained that she often helps patients deal with negative feedback from society. She tells them that they’re not crazy, and that their illness is simply an illness like any other.
Another highlight of the week was the opportunity to visit the house where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived. The house is now a museum of Frida’s brilliant artwork. I could have spent an hour looking at each painting because they are all so filled with so much symbolism about her life. I really admire creative forms of self-expression, and it was beautiful to learn about deepest feelings of this female Mexican artist in this way. As we have spent the semester meeting people from all experiences and walks of life, I felt as though I got to meet Frida in some way. Frida and Diego lived in this house 1929-1954
To finish the week, we took a day to practice the Mexican cultural value of “being” rather than “doing”. In the colonia of Xochimilco, we spent the afternoon riding in a colorful boat along a canal, and were even serenaded by a group of mariachi musicians! It was a great end to a wonderful week in Mexico City.
One of the boats along the canal in Xochimilco
--By Rachel Schwabe-Fry