ALAS won the "Outstanding achievements in the field of mental health" Award

The Swiss Foundation for World Health awarded the "Outstanding achievements in the field of mental health" prize to Alejandro Paiz, founder of ALAS Pro Salud Mental in early 2017. This award is a huge step forward for us as it formally and internationally recognize our efforts to improve mental health care here in Guatemala.

Here is what the prize said about Alejandro:

2016, Dr. Alejandro Paiz, ALAS PRO SALUD MENTAL, Guatemala. Dr. Alejandro Paiz is a young Guatemalan psychiatrist graduated with a scholarship from the Francisco Marroquin University´s Medicine school in 2002 and then from the Universidad San Carlos with honors with a specialization in general psychiatry. Dr. Paiz is one of the few psychiatrists of Guatemala currently working in the rural areas of the country and the only one working on social/comunitary psychiatry for vulnerable and poor population.
He started his psychiatry career in 2009 when he was offered the opportunity to create the mental health department, at National Hospital of Sololá which is the main city of the department in highland Guatemala. This is where he started to develop critical skills towards the clinical assessment, diagnostic, treatment of indigenous population along with education and empowerment of families with a member suffering from a mental disease. One of his biggest achievements was to facilitating access to treatment and medicine for the poorest families. During this period, he also developed training programs for educators, nurses and general practitioners on “primary mental health care”.
In 2013, Dr.Paiz decided to found the nonprofit NGO “Alas Pro Salud mental” in order to reach other patients excluded from the health public system in remote areas. As a matter of fact, with only a few quetzals for living, most of the patients cannot even afford to pay the transportation (by boat or bus) to be attended at the departmental hospital of Sololá. After 3 years of existence, through the dedication of Dr. Paiz, strategic partnerships with Universities and local hospital, Alas Pro Salud Mental can be considered as a model. Not only because it is the only NGO working in the field of mental health in Guatemala but above all because the project is sustainable. The approach to treatment includes providing medication and psychosocial support in partnership with local NGOs and families. It is low cost and sustainable because Alas build the capacity of existing health professionals and services rather than starting from scratch. It also build the capacity of participants by encouraging them to be members of self-help groups and create livelihoods opportunities to support their on-going recovery. Lastly, Alas reduce stigma by helping the broader community understand what mental illness is through events into schools, radio programs and distribution of posters. The convergence of those approaches in Alas’s model of work is what makes it unique in Guatemala.
— Norman Sartorius, MD, PHD