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“The pandemic gave us a chance to be a bit more with ourselves, forced us to stop and look at how we are doing life individually and in society.”

Said Lisange Tucci, a psychologist, about the pandemic we experienced – and still are experiencing – in the last year (2020).

Humans have always lived and survived many dark moments in the history of their existence and 2020 was, for sure, one of these difficult phases. When everyone was ready for a new year to begin, with a lot of expectations, the world stopped because of a very dangerous and contagious virus. Suddenly all the normal things, such as going to the mall, supermarket, school and work or walking with your dog for a fresh air, were no longer allowed. The real and hard truth is nobody was prepared for not being able to get out of their houses and not seeing anyone.

The scenario of panic, anxiety, worry opened doors for other illnesses, linked to mental health, were quickly spread. A world that was already sick became even sicker. People diagnosed with depression, anxiety and body image-related illnesses increased during the pandemic. After a year of social isolation, the way we see and understand ourselves among others has changed. Issues related to people's self-esteem were much debated and studied by mental health professionals. Hoping to understand the situation we are in, we interviewed Lisange Tucci, a psychologist. [bf_image id="4tpwg3gw3q57fzngmb24m35z"]

First, we wanted to know about the importance of discussing mental health, meanly during the moment we are living in. “Mental health issues are very important to be dealt with at any time” says Lisange, who continues “But with the pandemic, it became obvious that these issues were always overlooked. There was an increase in symptoms related to mental health in the pandemic, but I believe that there was a greater perception and an intensification of what was already there. Our society is sick for a very long time now, so much so that the antidepressant was already one of the best-selling drugs in the world before Covid 19.”, she explains about how the subject was put under the spotlight in the past year.

An increase of approximately 90% of the cases of depression in the country (according to the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro) happened and the number of people who suffer from anxiety doubled. Lisange explains why she thinks that the social distancing, despite being a super important preventive measure and necessary to contain Covid-19, has a lot to do with the growth of this mental illnesses: “Of course that with the isolation, the lack of ‘distractions’ that often anesthetized our pains, the internal sensations of inadequacy, of loneliness, of not feeling enough to be loved, increase anxiety because we realize that we don't know how to deal with our problems very well. And we need to learn, for ourselves individually and for social welfare”. She continues, “Treating depression simply with medication does not solve its cause. The ideal is to look inside yourself, for your feelings and anxieties, that is, to work on self-knowledge, as limiting beliefs that imprison us.”

And finally, she says “In the pandemic, when we feel alone, with no possibility of connecting with others and running away from our internal sensations, disconnected from ourselves, the feeling of loneliness ends up being overwhelming and anxiety (which is a fear of what is to come) increases a lot. To deal with the fears of losing a loved one for Covid, financial loss and being alone ended up reminding us of our human vulnerability.” [bf_image id="q8upkp-6lej5k-akv4da"]

Among these feelings, another very discussed aspect was people’s self-esteem. With social media, it was very easy to enter in an endless looping of comparing yourself with others and feeling awful after doing it. About that, the psychologist declares: “Of course, social media has a lot of people posting things that mask their self-esteem problems, making you think that this person is way better than yourself. Showing an agitated life, full of friends seems to give an air of popularity, of being better and more loved than others - which was more difficult to show during the pandemic. But how deep these relationships were and really nourished our needs for effective exchange?” and concludes by saying that “In order to have a good self-esteem it is necessary to accept oneself, including your difficulties and problems, seeking to understand them. Basing your self-esteem on the fact that you need to adapt to culturally imposed physical and behavioral standards is a fallacy.”

“Once a person in therapy asked me ‘so it is possible for us to be happy, even though we do not follow parents and society expectations?’ And I answered: that is the ONLY way of finding happiness.”

[bf_image id="fpqpp9n64rj5n3fvs8bp2c6h"] Lastly, we entered a very sensitive topic, mainly for the era of social networks and idealized bodies that we are living in: eating disorders. Firstly, the psychologist makes it very clear that there is much more to be said about these issues and this discussion is very important and then says “Not being able to see or hug loved ones, being alone and locked at home with a family that does not see their conflicts as a possibility for growth, can cause emotional withdrawal, anger issues and eating disorders.

Overeating, giving yourself a little serotonin through foods that are the quickest and easiest sources of pleasure, is often the way out for those in these situations of isolation. As a result, there is an increase in body fat, which undermines self-esteem, which is often based on the socially idealized body model. At the same time, there is an increase in anorexia (and in some cases bulimia) - which is an attempt to remain in control of the situation, by imposing dietary restrictions.” [bf_image id="kpxrrbvb5cwktb2fqhwnrms"] Lisange ends the interview by saying that “I noticed that the people who were already doing therapy with me, felt less the impact of emotional isolation issues than others who started therapy after the pandemic. For this first group of people, examining themselves and their emotional reactions was already part of their daily lives, something that helped them to face emotional difficulties with more resources - which does not mean that they did not feel the impact. Those who, for some reason, dealt less with their own emotional issues, because they started therapy later, were more anxious, with more depressive symptoms and less self-esteem. Which suggests that looking inside is a great remedy for this moment.”

There is no secret potion that can magically help us to deal with ourselves – our issues, flaws, difficulties and fears. Loving and understanding yourself is not an easy job; you are not going to wake up tomorrow and suddenly have a good self-esteem. There is a lot of work to be done, especially when everything around us is chaotic - a scenario very similar to what we experienced in 2020 and we continue to live.

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The article above was edited by Thays Avila.

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Clara Guimaraes

Casper Libero '24

young journalist still learning the art of writing. a lover of series, films and music. 
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