Seeking balance in isolation
When Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) considered scientific investigation to study the phenomena of the human mind, he raised a modern branch of psychology that considers the behavior of individuals as the subject of the psyche - psychoanalysis. In the 19th century, Freud, the father of this science, was a psychiatrist who invested in theories and experiments that interpreted the content present in the patients' unconscious in order to identify adverse symptoms and seek ways to live with the issues that were exposed. The Freudian legacy, like that of other pioneers in psychiatry, demonstrated the potential of the axis of humanistic studies and, above all, highlighted the attention of society to a compound structure within beings.
Two centuries later, psychoanalysis enters psychology as one of the most famous therapeutic fields for the treatment of mental health. The instrument of psychological well-being is also driven by popular alternative guides that seek to alleviate the problems of the contemporary lifestyle. When considering the demand, the consolidation of mind care becomes a fact nowadays. However, it is possible that Freud, self-help, coaching, meditation, and feng shui do not have such an inventory to deal with the impact that 2020 has brought to everyone: the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19).
In March of this year, the first official death from the coronavirus in Brazil surfaced. Since then, until June, 1 million people have been infected and more than 100,000 have been victims of the disease that is continually expanding across the country. Aiming at significant rates for the reduction of contagion, social isolation was widely publicized by the authorities as a priority to curb the spread of the disease. But, even with the slight implementation of the public measure, the number of infected with covid-19 grows progressively and exponentially, also causing an implosion of cases of mental imbalance in the Brazilian population.
In Brazil, the number of cases of depression and anxiety is higher than the world average, and, for experts, the factors caused by the pandemic are strong catalysts for a large-scale mental health crisis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Brazilians register an average of 11.5 million cases of depression and another 18.6 million suffer from anxiety disorders, in 2017 statistics. Amid a scenario surrounded by thousands of deaths, forced to social isolation, and dominated by apprehension, problems such as social vulnerability, social inequality, and lack of access to mental health services intensify the crisis in the Brazilian context.
For Professor Dr. Algeless Milka Pereira Meireles da Silva, professor at the Psychology Course at the Federal University of Delta do Parnaíba (UFDPar), the configuration caused by the covid-19 pandemic exposes all citizens to some level of emotional fragility, but it is necessary to consider the different issues experienced by each group. “I understand that mental health, as well as the processes of illness, pass, above all, through the collective. So it is essential to think about psychological suffering in a way situated in different contexts, mediated by sociocultural artifacts and social interactions that are established between people, including the relations of power, consumption, and access to cultural goods ”, says the researcher.
The psychologist warns of greater care for people who have a history of pre-existing emotional imbalances, as they suffer due to the specific tensions of this period and may be at risk in the face of a possible worsening of the condition. Algeless Milka also explains that people are constantly subjected to biopsychosocial conditions that potentially generate illness processes and psychological suffering is an effort to maintain sanity, even with the adversities of life. When witnessing a pandemic, the professional reports that everyone becomes susceptible to the elements that characterize their own life history, adding to aspects of social relationships, the material, and emotional conditions in which they live to experience the current context.
When thinking about a collective mental immunization, the teacher says she believes in integration as a precursor of this trajectory. “In this moment of generalized confinement, we were led to look at our condition in a more integrated way. We turn our attention to the context and expand a little more the historically hegemonic view of locating in the person the reason for all his problems, especially those related to mental health. Thus, fighting for collective mental health involves understanding that it is necessary to provide decent living conditions to all people without distinction, conditions that favor the establishment of safe bonds and healthy relationships and interactive standards that favor the full development of the person in full”.
With social isolation, the pandemic established remote education as a link between schools and the homes of Brazilian students. The measure is apprehended by several educational centers from basic education to higher education - Higher education obtained recent approval from the Ministry of Education (MEC) for remote operation until the end of 2020. The problems faced by the implementation of remote education in the midst of a pandemic, accumulate specifically in vulnerable areas and endanger the mental health of those involved in the process. There is the difficulty of reconciling remote work with domestic chores, the impasse in monitoring school activities on-line, the lack of sufficient devices and an internet connection, the conflict with emotional tensions, and the economic instability caused by the crisis itself.
As a researcher in the field of using digital information and communication technologies in educational practices, Professor Dr. Algeless Milka coordinates the Center for Studies in Psychology and Educational Innovation (NEPSIN) and highlights the issue of remote educational teaching as an impact on mental health. For the teacher, it is possible to learn from the crisis and because of it, but as long as the solutions are inclusive and consider the mental care of students, family, and teachers. “In the context of remote education, it is essential to redefine public and institutional training and support policies, with a view to the use of technologies. Because there is no way to ignore the many interferences in the teaching-learning process and expect students and educators to continue with the same yield that they had in a context without a pandemic”.
The researcher observes that, in the current situation, the learning that helps in the adaptation process takes shape from a collective construction of confrontation and new forms of social organization. “It is an unprecedented reductionism to consider that the only obstacle to remote education in the context of the pandemic concerns the digital divide or the lack of skills of teachers and students with the management of technologies. Support for the various individuals in the school community must start from the contextualized look at the reality of teachers and different families in relation to access to these tools, as well as to the management of other demands that end up overlapping the remote teaching experience”, She adds.
As in education, the branch of psychology is undergoing transformations using technology as its main support. Online service or telecommunication, is an intensified modality after the advent of social isolation, which must also include the renewal of the curriculum of mental health professionals.
According to Professor Nadja Carolina de Sousa Pinheiro, professor of the Psychology Course at the State University of Piauí (UESPI), online attendance service is an interesting perspective within the field of psychology and is provided by the Federal Council of Psychology (CFP). “Online attendance service is governed by serious recommendations, including professional registration. Due to the pandemic, the agency allowed registration and direct assistance, but there is an assessment premise for subsequent authorization. It is a modality that requires professionals to be very cautious in relation to the resources available for care and security and privacy resources. I believe it is an excellent strategy to bring the relationship between therapist and patient closer”, explains Nadja.
With the hybridization of online and offline life, social networks have established themselves as a vehicle for society's information consumption. Amid the instant circulation of news about the coronavirus, the phenomenon of disinformation brought to the fore the power of alienation from the spread of fake news. According to research by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), released in April this year, social media is one of the main means of misinformation about the coronavirus. Altogether, 73.7% of fake news circulated on WhatsApp, 15.8% on Facebook, and 10.5% on Instagram.
Misinformation is a risk, especially when used to corroborate segregationist practices, as Professor Nadja Carolina, also the coordinator of the Psychology and Human Development Research Group (GP / PSIDIHN) at UESPI, points out. One of the groups affected during the pandemic is migrants who face prejudice from the resident population, especially in small towns. “Migration flows are common in times of crisis. The role of public policies at this time is fundamental for the process to happen in the least conflictual way possible since it involves psychological, physical, and social demands. All models of confrontations involving cooperation have been more successful, which requires countries to turn to more humanitarian practices. The segregationist models have shown much more loss of life and resources”, says the professor.
For the professor, the viable alternative for the search for an informational balance consists of using reliable sources of information, diversifying the sources to obtain more than one information, checking the veracity of the information, and anticipating studying to clarify doubts.
Facing the crisis
While alternatives are being sought to curb contagion and the number of victims of the coronavirus, the future of Brazil and the post-pandemic world is uncertain. For now, the only certainty is that the consequences caused by the effects of the pandemic can be eternal. Considering this fact, how, then, can we seek an improvement in mental health during the crisis? “Recognizing the uncertainty and vulnerability we are experiencing is fundamental”, replies Professor Dr. Fabiana Ribeiro Monteiro, professor of the Psychology Course at the Federal University of Delta do Parnaíba (UFDPar).
According to the researcher in Social Psychology, denying the reflexes of the crisis can lead to a worsening of mental health. “Denying the situation or fantasizing too much generates references within expectations that do not necessarily materialize. Another very important aspect is to observe quality information and reliable sources to maintain and improve care for as long as necessary, so the exercise of the present and solidarity is crucial”, ponders Fabiana.
The specialist reiterates that the improvement strategies to reach qualified mental health care involve structuring alternatives that already exist in public policy. "The Unified Health System (SUS) has extended accessibility and if we manage to expand the existing spaces, the number of professionals and ally with the improvement of the infrastructure, we can daily affirm the care actions", she concludes.