McLean Hospital and Universidad San Francisco de Quito Collaboration

Education and Outreach in Quito, Ecuador

In 2018, McLean Hospital and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) forged a collaboration aimed at increasing mental health awareness, while reducing the stigma too often associated with mental health and wellness. Through innovative and engaging programs, McLean and USFQ are enhancing mental health education throughout Ecuador and South America.

Why Is McLean Doing Work in Ecuador?

Education and advocacy are key elements of the McLean mission. The hospital has a deep-seated commitment to improving knowledge and understanding of mental health conditions and their treatments globally.

McLean brings its expertise internationally through a thoughtful, comprehensive approach that includes public and professional education. The hospital works toward enhancing the overall knowledge of brain health and encouraging compassion for others and ourselves.

Professional Training

Building on the strength of their academic missions, McLean and USFQ have developed robust multi-day conferences focused on providing students, mental health providers, government officials, and educators from Ecuador and South America with mental health best practices.

In-depth trainings and case studies focused on a better understanding of adult and teen mental health, including common symptoms for depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and self-harm.

The goal of each of these conferences has been to actively engage the audience in hands-on learning, encouraging significant audience participation. We also aim to allow for each person to leave the conference with tangible skills that they can apply immediately.

Public Outreach

McLean Hospital and USFQ hosted an “ask the experts” session focused on mental health in the workplace that was attended by influential business leaders from across Ecuador.

During this roundtable discussion, McLean Hospital experts discussed many topics, including stress, burnout, the impacts of the pandemic on workforces and industry, and balancing self-care with work and family responsibilities. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide prevention, and substance misuse were explored.

Audience members asked their toughest questions and shared their own insights, working to increase mental health awareness and reduce its stigma.

In addition, McLean has worked closely with USFQ to develop an Ecuador-specific exhibit of Deconstructing Stigma: Changing Attitudes About Mental Health.

To ensure the stories of Deconstructing Stigma participants were culturally sensitive and relevant, McLean recruited volunteer writers from USFQ. Through this effort, more than 10 Ecuadorians are actively participating in Deconstructing Stigma, sharing their stories in honest and compelling ways that accurately reflect their experiences with conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance use, as well as the fear and stigma they faced.

Deconstructing Stigma participant Francisca
Francisca is a participant in McLean’s Deconstructing Stigma campaign

USFQ colleagues have also worked to identify public spaces to exhibit Deconstructing Stigma, including a shopping plaza adjacent to the USFQ campus.

Focusing on increasing understanding about mental health and reducing stigma in Ecuador and around the world is critically important to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

McLean and USFQ are dedicated to maintaining their collaborative efforts and continue to plan future events and exhibitions.

Impact of the Collaboration

To date, more than 1,000 individuals have participated in the mental health conferences and “ask the expert” sessions held in Quito.

With the Quito Deconstructing Stigma exhibit, the number of people who engage with McLean and USFQ’s mental health awareness and stigma reduction initiatives is expected to grow exponentially.

Through partnerships with McLean’s international collaborators, such as USFQ, McLean is delivering on its pledge to improve access to high-quality psychiatric care, research, and education around the world.

Facts About Mental Health in Ecuador

  • Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in Ecuador, followed by anxiety, stress, and substance misuse
  • Mental health stigma has a negative effect across the country and impacts the level of support and treatment that people receive
  • Suicide is the first leading cause of death among teen girls and the fourth leading cause among men
  • Ecuadorian men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide

Our Partners

USFQ is the highest-ranked university in Ecuador and is ranked number 57 in Latin America. Each year, it welcomes 8,393 undergraduate and graduate students representing more than 80 nationalities and countries (including 500 indigenous students and 1,000 international students). The university encompasses 967 teachers and staff, 10 colleges and academic schools, and 51 careers.

The USFQ is classified in the highest category (Category A) by the National Council of Evaluation and Accreditation of Higher Education and is the only fully private university in Ecuador in this category.