We already knew that the effects of the pandemic would leave deep wounds in society and that students would be among the main victims. And the first diagnosis is there to prove the worst: loneliness, anxiety and depression especially among women and it affects more those who study in the fields of humanities, where the exchange of ideas, the exchange of experiences and coexistence are heavier on learning. . However, the conclusion is nothing more than the tip of the iceberg.
In the midst of an epidemic whose fight required isolation and awareness through the dangers, many lives were lost for those who did not fight back the virus. Projects were put on hold, dreams put on hold, goals pushed, and the futures of millions committed. Among those suffering the biggest losses are the youngest. Students of higher education, who have not been able to experience and enhance the full experience that the university brings – discussion, socialization, travel, partying, Erasmus times and cultural exchange, the making of bonds, the opportunity to weave history and make friendships, so that the first identity and ideological definition cannot be built in virtual form Just. But also the little ones, who have spent the past two years banning what is natural and necessary to form them as individuals: don’t touch, don’t share, don’t hug, don’t call, don’t go out, don’t play.
Physical withdrawal may be necessary to contain the virus when there are no longer any answers to a violent reality that has imposed itself without warning. But at this moment, it is urgent to return to normal life. Schools have an essential role in restoring normal social life. It is not enough to open doors and ensure that face-to-face teaching returns. It must be ensured that what was lost is recoverable, and that the visible and less visible holes in this tissue are properly filled and not untied again.
Portugal is the second country with the highest prevalence of mental illness in Europe (only Northern Ireland beats us) and more than a fifth of Portuguese people are now diagnosed with a mental disorder. The scenario is particularly dramatic in a country that still does not consider mental health a priority, where prejudice prevails around recognizing the importance of seeking help.
The pandemic and its effects – fear, uncertainty, insecurity… – and the limitations and limitations of relationships have brutally exacerbated this scenario. It will be years before we have a real idea of the consequences.
A month before the start of the new school year, it is necessary to work on minimizing the damage. We must now invest seriously in hiring mental health professionals in schools who can accompany our children and youth. From nursery school to university, make sure there is someone to listen and respond, accompany them and be aware of their difficulties, even if they are unconscious. They need to know that they can find this support at any time – not on a specific day and time. Waiting and praying for nothing to happen is a recipe for disaster. With serious implications for the future of all of us.
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