Souza WS. Associações civis em saúde mental no Rio de Janeiro democratizando os espaços sociais. [Civil associations in mental health in Rio de Janeir democratizing social spaces] Cadernos de Salud Pública [Public Health Notebooks] (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) 2001 July-August; 17(4):933-939.

Objectives: To analyze the political action of three mental health-related user and family associations in their capacity as interest groups interacting with the Municipal Health Council of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Methodology: Analytical and interpretive.

Results: Via intense political participation, the associations have enunciated a new voice. This voice brings its own kind of reasoning, distinct from the technical. The associations point out what functions within the system and what does not.

In their political activity, the associations confront a variety of difficulties: structural problems, difficulties in replacing their leadership, and economic problems. The most important problem involves stigma and discrimination that in many instances erodes the sense of common purpose. As a result, the associations often limit their efforts to improving material issues, or some participants focus solely on resolving matters pertaining to themselves.

Conclusions: The user and family associations represent innovative forms of political participation by specific interest groups. Initially, these groups found themselves outside the discussions, formulations, and implementation of public policies, which were dominated by technical discussion and terminology. The associations inject another voice, which brings the perspective of those who live with their own daily suffering or that of family and friends.

Copyright 2007 University of New Mexico