Life stories

Don José locked in his house, when ALAS first met him

Don José locked in his house, when ALAS first met him


Don José was taken by the army 25 years ago, while he walked in the street. He was held for three days, threatened with torture. He witnessed horrible things (fear and sadness are evident when he tells his story). He was then release but since that moment, he began to feel an intense fear of being caught again; every time he left his home he felt he was being followed.

A few months later, the symptoms worsened; every time he left his house, he “froze” (describing classic panic attacks), and if he saw anyone from the army he would suffer episodes of “reliving” the kidnapping and would run to hide in his home. He was also unable to sleep because he had constant dreams related to he event. Because of this and to avoid the attacks, he isolated himself in his house, getting to the point in which it had been 20 years since he left his house at all.

ALAS provided Don José with group therapies, anti-depressant and anxiolytic drugs during over 4 years. Don José is now able to go out of his house again, although only when he is accompanied by his wife. He joins a monthly group therapy where he participates actively to social, religious and cultural activities. He also became an ambassador of ALAS when he went to Guatemala City to tell his story to hundreds of people on the International Mental Health Day.

Don José telling his story during the International Mental Health Day in Guatemala City

Don José telling his story during the International Mental Health Day in Guatemala City

Achievements per Program

1. Access to treatment

  • Direct clinical attention to 725 families followed by psychiatrist (outpatient clinic and home visits for the severely ill)
  • Visit to all families for education and medicine adherence monitoring
  • Sponsorship program
  • Treatment donation for severely ill patients
  • Access to medicines programs: antidepressant at net cost
  • Currently, three municipalities are receiving regular consultation visits

2. Fight Against Stigma

  • Children and youth workshops (500 students per year)
  • Lectures to primary care physicians
  • Posters regarding “prevention in mental health” posted in health clinics, schools, municipalities and social services
  • Mental Health World Day activities (race, parade, commemorative ceremonies
  • Two radio shows “Mental Health for All” (Spanish and T’zutujil
  • Weekly T.V. show “Mental Health for All (local and Youtube)

3. Training

  • “Basic mental health” training program to non-medical personnel in state health services (280 people per year)
  • “Tacit diseases” lecture series for educators, facilitators, teachers, and Social Work students (400 people per year)
  • Lobbying and preparation for mhGAP training program for state primary care physicians in 2017
  • Collaboration with Stanford School of Medicine (Psychiatry residents and Child psychiatry fellow participate in the program)
  • Creation of a Community Psychiatry rotational program in collaboration with Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala

4. Rehabilitation & Empowerment

  • Support, advocacy and companionship to patients in need of legal or technical assistance
  • Mutual support group: one year of monthly sessions, 25-30 and family members
  • Lobbying and support to “evolve” the mutual group into a “Family and Patients Association”
  • Monthly “Diabetes and quality of life” club, 25-30 participants per session
  • Micro-loan program for patients and families in collaboration with Ecole Polytechnique’s X-Microfinance program