A Datafolha survey commissioned by Abrata (Brazilian Association of Families, Friends and People with Affective Disorders) and the pharmaceutical company Viatris showed that 44% of Brazilians said they had psychological problems during the Covid-19 pandemic, decreed by the WHO (World Organization of the Health) in March 2020.
The survey was carried out in person, between the 2nd and 7th of August, in 129 municipalities in the five regions of the country. 2,055 people aged 16 and over were interviewed, from all economic classes, according to the criteria of the PNAD 2019 (National Household Sample Survey). The margin of error is 2 percentage points, plus or minus, within the 95% confidence level.
The most affected were women (53%), young people between 16 and 24 years (56%), economically active people (48%), people with high education (57%) and people without children (51%).
In addition, 28% of respondents reported that they had been diagnosed with depression or another mental health-related illness during the pandemic, while 46% stated that a family member or close friends had depression during this period.
The survey is part of the campaign “Bem Me Quer, Bem Me Quero: Dialogue on Depression and Anxiety Can Save Lives” for Yellow September, month of suicide prevention.
“The prolongation of the pandemic period mixed with uncertainty about the future, a routine with circulation restrictions, fear of death, mourning and lack of interaction between family and friends increased feelings of anxiety, boredom, panic and loneliness during this period, which may have led to these worrying data”, observes the neurologist and medical director of Viatris, Elizabeth Bilevicius.
According to the survey, awareness among Brazilians about the topic of depression is still deficient. Just over half of respondents (53%) considered it very important to offer support to those who are experiencing the disease, and 10% said they did not know how to act in front of an acquaintance with depression. This difficulty in dealing with the situation is slightly greater among men and people who are not economically active.
In addition to the increase in cases of depression, feelings of overload, fear and anguish during the pandemic also worsened. About 55% of people agreed that they felt overloaded with tasks and 57% said they had experienced fear and anguish in recent months.
About having a support network, with family, friends and co-workers, 62% of respondents who had symptoms of anxiety or depression said they had someone to count on, and 14% had no one to support them. Almost all (96%) agreed that the support network favors recovery from psychological problems.
“The first step [para enfrentar os problemas de saúde mental] it is admitting that you are sick, that you need help. Denial of the problem in these cases is very common. From there, it is important to open up with people you trust and establish a clean and constructive dialogue, since the support network is a fundamental complement to the clinical approach. We know that those who rely on this support usually have more adherence to the treatment”, reinforces Marta Axthelm, president of Abrata.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), Brazil leads the ranking of cases of depression in Latin America, with more than 11.5 million Brazilians suffering from the disease, and is the most anxious country in the world, with almost 19 million people who have the disorder.
Alexandrina Meleiro, psychiatrist and member of Abrata’s Scientific Council, says that almost all cases of suicide are related to mental disorders. First is depression, followed by bipolar disorder and substance abuse.
“Practically everyone who attempts or commits this act has a psychiatric illness. Statistics show that more than half of them were under medical follow-up up to a week before the episode. Importantly, those who think about suicide almost always give signs, but most people are not prepared to identify them. Hence the importance of the Yellow September, to help clarify and make the population aware of the issue”, says Alexandrina.
The attempt to life itself is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29 in the world. However, it is not exclusive to teenagers. The psychiatrist also explains that the elderly and vulnerable populations, such as indigenous people, LGBTQIA+, doctors, police officers and members of the armed forces are also the groups that show a high incidence in Brazil.
The Datafolha survey shows that the taboo on the subject is gradually unraveling: 52% of people disagree that talking about suicide should be avoided. About the LGBTQIA+ population, the survey revealed that 65% of respondents agree that this group is more vulnerable to suicide. This perception is greater among young people aged 16 to 24, people who work and those without children.
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