After being diagnosed with depression a few months before the pandemic began, Lara Zanini felt her mental health take a turn for the worse when she entered high school. The new reality of social isolation combined with the stress of training for entrance exams only exacerbated the anguish she had already endured.
“It weighed a little bit because you never know what will happen, you can study as much as you can, but you don’t know if you will succeed or not. You want to make your parents and family happy, you want to be proud of yourself and pass good colleges.” Which has your profile, And there are a lot of questions about whether or not it will happen,” says the 19-year-old.
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Her case is not unique. In addition to stating that he has many friends who are facing similar situations to himAnd the Data from the Covetel Survey (Telephone Survey of Risk Factors for Chronic Noncommunicable Diseases in Times of a Pandemic) shows that the number of young people diagnosed with depression practically doubled after the pandemic. The prevalence of the disorder among young adults aged 18-24 was 7.7% and jumped to 14.8%.
Psychiatrist Gilhem Polanczyk says this increase is caused by a combination of situations that have caused significant stress.
“Fear of illness, economic losses, family stress, grief, and difficulties at school are factors that have very special effects on each person,” says the psychiatrist.
A study published in the scientific journal Nature showed that this is also due to the change in adolescents’ expectations regarding their future opportunities. Research titled ‘Adolescent Psychosocial Well-Being One Year After the COVID-19 Outbreak in Norway’ reveals that the pessimistic scenario challenges adolescents’ core beliefs about living in a safe and manageable world.
“Economic stagnation affects those in the early stages of their careers, making entry into the labor market more difficult,” the authors wrote.
However, challenges persist and take different forms. “Now that the epidemic has relieved me and I have come face to face, it has gotten worse again. I am afraid I will get sick and someone in the family will get sick. I am already used to it and have produced a lot at home, now I have to go to college in person and it makes me a lot heavier,” says the law student .
The psychiatrist distinguishes laziness and depression
With symptoms of anxiety since the age of 11, the diagnosis helped Lara explain other difficulties she had in school, such as low grades. In exposing the situation to the educational institution, the young woman found plenty of support and calmly faced the recovery from school.
Polanchik, who is also professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of the South Pacific School of Medicine, says school should also be a space to promote mental health.
“With these numbers that we have, in terms of mental health, a school that doesn’t deal with this will only have half of its students, because a school that excludes those with mental health issues is excluding a large portion.”
The clinician remembers the possibilities that teachers have on a daily basis to determine which behaviors deserve attention, since the school is the main interaction environment for children and young people.
“If we can intervene, we can avoid problems and help. It is a space that is also responsible for the mental health of children and adolescents. We can think of strategies to create an appropriate climate between students and teachers and to address mental, emotional and social skills such as empathy and cooperation,” he suggests.
Learn to spot the signs of depression
At the other end, the elderly
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), everyone 60 years of age or older is considered elderly. Populations in this age group whose mental health was also affected by isolation, but in different ways.
“In youth, [a depressão] It has more subjective content, with more fatigue, sadness and loss of energy. Older people may have a similar picture, but sometimes symptoms of apathy and anxiety appear. It is a brain that can have more vascular lesions and atrophy, which can present as a depressive state. Pathophysiology varies,” explains George Silvera, psychiatrist and psychiatrist.
Silvera, who is also an assistant at the Institute of Psychiatry at Hospital das Clínicas University of the South Pacific School of Medicine, points out that there is a big difference between what is aging and what is part of aging.
Aging is a manifestation of the diseases that characterize aging, such as changes in brain functions responsible for memory, thinking, and movement control. Aging is the normal and expected changes during aging.
“The increase in life expectancy makes us recognize a higher prevalence of dementia. Aging is a non-modifiable risk factor. If someone begins to present depressive disorder exclusively in old age, they are likely to develop a cognitive disorder in the next two years, because mood swings are Symptoms of some types of dementia and we consider it a warning sign,” the psychiatrist explains.
The main sign that something is not going well is a change in a person’s functioning pattern. This includes more characteristic details, such as more depressed moods, as well as greater difficulty concentrating and making decisions, as well as decreased pleasure in daily activities. Older adults, in particular, tend to feel restless during the depressive process.
For Lara, a mental health issue is like being inside a burning building. “The medication will help us get out of this building without being in too much pain, but what really heals is the treatment,” says the student. During my nearly three years of therapeutic follow-up, I felt that the biggest gain was self-knowledge. “By understanding why I act in certain ways, I was able to break the pattern of harmful behaviors,” he says.
In children and teens, as in adults, depression can be a one-time episode that is treated and resolved and will never recur, but it can also be the beginning of a serious course of problems over time.
“Some get depressed over time,” says the psychiatrist. “We know that stress, like an epidemic, stays in the brain, altering its functions. So sometimes the results only show up in behavior after a while.”
It is important to note that there is a difference between symptoms of depression (feeling sad, lacking energy, and not wanting to do things), in order to make a diagnosis of depression.
All young people are based on interpersonal relationships through which people develop their skills and self-perception. When depression is present, all of this is affected.
“By defining depression itself, a person will have fewer experiences and see themselves in a more negative way,” Polanchik says of the consequences of depressive disorder.
This interference with development also affects learning and social relationships. If this is carried out for a long time without proper follow-up, there is a higher risk of permanent developmental damage, such as dropping out of school or communication difficulties.
Another study, published in 2020 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, showed that teens who slept poorly at age 15 were more likely to develop anxiety or depression at age 17, 21 or 24.
Conducted in the United Kingdom, the survey “Self-reported sleep patterns and quality in adolescents: cross-sectional and prospective associations with anxiety and depression” analyzed information from more than 5,000 people, followed by 15 to 24 years, and concluded that poor sleep presents a mental health risk.
The psychiatrist says that having a regular sleep schedule and an adequate number of hours is essential, as well as a proper diet, which are part of the process of regulating the physiological cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Proper eating and being physically active are two other pillars, as is having someone you can count on. “You have to feel that you have support and that you are someone to turn to when you face difficulties,” Polanczyk concludes.
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