Brazil is the country with the highest depression rate in Latin America, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the country, 5.8% of the population suffers from the disease, being 7.7% of women and 3.6% of men. This is one of the most discussed points also in Yellow September, the suicide prevention month, with communications that encourage the promotion of mental health.
The topic is still considered taboo in some societies, so it must be treated with responsibility and seriousness. The current pandemic moment can aggravate and further confuse people about issues related to the psyche. After all, for many people, the feeling of fear, insecurity, sadness and anxiety has now manifested itself frequently.
Learn how to differentiate these moments of sadness from feelings and behaviors that can lead to illness.
Watch for signs
How to differentiate, if fear and sadness are becoming permanent and worsening health? The accredited psychiatrist Omint, Dr. Yara Azevedo Prandi, points out below some important points to note.
1. Feelings worsen and are accompanied by physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, body pain, palpitation, changes in appetite or sleep.
2. Emotions – such as sadness, anger, fear, irritation or apparent coldness – become intense and seem unbearable.
3. Feelings make room for atypical behaviors, such as becoming irritable and agitated, or leading to substance abuse.
4. Negative feelings can be accompanied by cognitive symptoms, such as memory failure, less concentration, mental confusion, being repetitive.
To arrive at suicidal ideation, there are also risk factors such as a history of emotional and physical abuse, domestic violence or a family history of attempts to take one’s own life. The psychiatrist recalls that 90% of people who commit suicide have some mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, psychosis and chemical dependency.
Therefore, a person with affected mental health will emit signals that they need help. Those who are nearby can observe and help with the referral, but only a professional – such as the psychiatrist – is able to diagnose and treat the issues.
The pandemic ignites a new alert
The current moment of a state of pandemic and social isolation due to Covid-19 can worsen mental health, either because of fear of being contaminated, of losing family members, or because its distance to social life.
According to Dr. Yara, since 1918 there have been reports of an increase in psychiatric cases in epidemics. However, in the pandemic of the new coronavirus, there are already researches that determine the current moment as more delicate for mental health.
A study published in the scientific journal Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that symptoms of depression increased more than three times during the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, compared to previous data.
If there has always been a worsening of depression and anxiety at times like this, why is the current pandemic more aggravated? There are no proven explanations yet, but the psychiatrist points out below for some factors.
– Infection: contagion control is more delicate, requires collective care. This brings a greater level of fear and insecurity in places where we used to have peace of mind to move around.
– Quarantine: the need for social isolation and scarcity can lead to loneliness. This increases cases of depression, anxiety and negative thoughts.
– Ignorance: as it is a new virus and without much published literature, there is a fear of the unknown. There are still no treatments with 100% proven efficacy, testing still raises questions and the vaccine is in the research phase.
– Mortality: the disease is at high risk, especially in some populations. This causes apprehension of how the organism itself can react in case of being infected or losing those we love.
– Recession: the economic crisis has generated a loss of jobs or income for a large part of the population, which brings great insecurity about the future.
– False news: the high volume of information released in the media can arouse anxiety. In addition, there is a high circulation of fake news, which causes the feeling of insecurity with that of not knowing who to trust.
Therefore, the normal feelings of this current context can respond well with the support of a conversation with friends, seeking reliable information (when necessary) and maintaining a healthy routine.
“The pandemic may have eroded some people’s mental health. When fear and sadness are constant, they can become a disease. In that case, it is necessary to seek professional help ”, warns Dr. Yara Azevedo.
The doctor reflects that we now have the opportunity to raise awareness that mental illness is a pathology like any other, with diagnosis and treatment. “If part of the fear we have about Covid-19 is because science is still unable to diagnose or treat with excellence, depression and anxiety are diseases that psychiatrists and psychologists know how to treat and recover from,” she points out.
She complements with an analogy to open people’s eyes: “When we find a spot on the skin, we make an appointment with the dermatologist immediately. It doesn’t take us four months to think about whether it’s good to investigate or not. It may be nothing, but if it is a problem, you have given due attention to start treatment as soon as possible”.
The role of HR in the Yellow September
The WHO also indicated, in 2017, that depression would become the main justification for sick leave in 2020. Therefore, the understanding of this and other mental illnesses needs to be spread among human resource managers so that companies can help your employees effectively.
In the corporate environment, there are signs that colleagues can identify to offer support to the individual. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Mário Louzã, also Omint accredited, points out that it is important to differentiate dysthymia from a risk scenario.
“Dysthymia is a chronic depression that hardly culminates in an extreme situation. It is the person who is permanently apathetic, silent, with a permanently sad state of mind. It is different from the person who suddenly changes his mood and starts to have thoughts of little value, with phrases like ‘life is not worth it’, ‘I don’t want to wake up the next day’.”
With that, it is important to talk about mental disorders without taboos to avoid extreme situations. “A person with suicidal ideation, in general, gives evidence that he is with this type of thinking and, therefore, at risk. If we can intervene in time, we avoid attempts that culminate in a lethal outcome”, he comments.
Dr. Yara Azevedo adds that in preventing suicide we need to address an improvement in mental health as a whole. When we know what the risk factors are, it is possible to act quickly.
In addition, the psychiatrist reinforces that it is necessary to have a reduction in prejudice with diagnosis within the work environment itself, with actions that minimize the isolation and loneliness of those under treatment. Having space to talk openly about the topic and forming groups that can work collaboratively are also important tips.
In this context, Dr. Mário Louzã adds that it is essential that HR presents clear welcoming behaviors to employees with disorders. Most of the time, the individual who perceives changes in mood in himself and difficulty in performing daily tasks is ashamed and afraid to face a diagnosis of depression.
“There is a fear of suffering reprisals, prejudices, judgments and, therefore, it is essential that he has a support network that provides support and encourages him to seek professional help”, he points out.
To help companies take care of their employees’ mental health, since 2015 Omint has made available the Emotional Health Program, aimed at supporting the HRs of partner companies in prevention. The activities help to strengthen emotional health and raise awareness about the levels of stress in the lives of participants.
With this, the company identifies cases that need specific monitoring and seeks to demystify mental health for people in the workplace. Omint’s professionals guarantee all the necessary structure and reception.
Over the years, the Emotional Health Program has achieved positive results: in the first half of 2020, meetings were 90% attended, with a 47% reduction in the level of stress. In addition, Omint’s Center for Health and Prevention (NUSP) provides client companies – in Yellow September and every month of the year – with virtual meetings with tips and preventive actions for companies and their employees.