How are Brazilians being mentally affected by the economic recession arising from the current pandemic?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sarah Silvestre Figueiredo and Ms. Catarina Sepini Pires Griloa, two third-year medical students at the University of the State of Rio Grande do Norte (UERN), located in Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


               Since the pandemic reached its first peak in mid-March 2020, several countries around the world have been forced to adopt strict rules for the coexistence and movement of people, such as restrictions on the operation of commercial establishments, limited number of people in same location and even imposition of lockdowns and curfews.

               Despite the measures taken being part of a set of actions under the guidance of the World Health Organization against the spread of the virus, these acts generated great impacts on the world economy and, consequently, on the quality of life and mental health of the population.

In Brazil, establishments that generate great employment and financial exchange, such as shopping malls, restaurants, hotels and others, were forced to abruptly close their doors. This sudden restriction ended up generating a chain reaction of unemployment, as it prevented most entrepreneurs from being able to keep their business active and pay their employees, given the low demand for the services offered. This growing financial pressure on young adults, as observed in other economic recessions that have already been experienced, generates impacts on their mental health, as they experience unemployment, declining living conditions, the growing accumulation of debt and the fear of losing their own home and food, a very favorable scenario for the development of mental disorders and even suicidal and violent behavior.

               The consequences of financial problems in families fall on Brazilian adolescents and young people, who, in addition to experiencing the decline in freedom and social life arising from the quarantine period, also end up dealing with the consequences of social and financial pressure on their parents. Thus, many young people, seeking to escape the harsh reality of marital conflict and mistreatment experienced daily within their homes, often resort to extreme measures such as abuse of alcohol and drugs.

               Thus, in the Brazilian context, it is possible to notice that the effects of the pandemic become more aggravated due to social inequality. The high concentration of income with a specific minority of the population, which has plagued the country since the beginning of the nation, generates a concrete vulnerability in the current context, where several families have lost purchasing power and quality of life. A study released by the Brazilian Institute of Economics of University Getúlio Vargas (Ibre-FGV), shows that Brazil occupies the second position in the ranking that measures the unhappiness of 38 countries, with 19.83% of economic discomfort. This number more directly reflects the level of impact of the current crisis and the growing dissatisfaction that permeates the minds of young Brazilians.

               Therefore, it is observed that the COVID-19 pandemic increased, in several areas, the stressors in young adults. Among these factors are included loneliness resulting from social isolation, fear related to the contagion of the disease, financial problems that include unemployment and uncertainty about the future. The top priority is overcoming the pandemic through mass vaccination and greater support for the mental health of the population.

References

Fegert, J. M. et al. Challenges and burden of the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic for child and adolescent mental health: a narrative review to highlight clinical and research needs in the acute phase and the long return to normality. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2020; 14: 20. Published online 2020 May 12. doi: 10.1186/s13034-020-00329-3

ACHDUT, Netta; REFAELI, Tehila. Unemployment and Psychological Distress among Young People during the COVID-19 Pandemic: psychological resources and risk factors. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, [S.L.], v. 17, n. 19, p. 7163, 30 set. 2020. MDPI AG. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17197163.

GARCIA, Amanda; PINHEIRO, André. Desemprego e inflação: Brasil tem 2ª maior sensação de mal-estar entre 38 países. 2021. Disponível em: https://www.cnnbrasil.com.br/business/2021/06/21/brasil-e-o-2-pais-com-maior-sensacao-de-mal-estar-no-mundo-diz-pesquisa. Acesso em: 25 jun. 2021.

ZANINI, D. S. et al. Practicing Social Isolation During a Pandemic in Brazil: A Description of Psychosocial Characteristics and Traits of Personality During COVID-19 Lockout. Front Sociol, 2021. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8141736/pdf/fsoc-06-615232.pdf

BARROS, M. B. A. Report on sadness/depression, nervousness/anxiety and sleep problems in the Brazilian adult population during the COVID-19 pandemic. Epidemiol. Serv. Saúde, 2020. Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32844918/

About the authors

Sarah Silvestre Figueiredo is a third-year medical student at the University of the State of Rio Grande do Norte (UERN), located in Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. She is an analyst at the Scientific Research Nucleus of IFMSA Brazil UERN and member of the managment of the University’s League of Physiopathology of Clinical Emergencies. She is very enthusiastic about the college activities, and likes to contribute to the promotion of health education for the population. Also, she’s interested in mental health, and understand its value for a good quality of life.

Catarina Sepini Pires Grilo is a third-year medical student at the University of the State of Rio Grande do Norte (UERN), located in Mossoró, Brazil. She is a local coordinator (LC) at IFMSA Brazil UERN and member of the University’s Psychiatry League and Patology League. She’s also very passionate about health education.

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