Would you (or someone you care about) like to talk?

  • March 22, 2023
  • News

Photo by Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

In the first part of the interview with Brazilian Psychologist, Ana Lucia Gonçalves and Brazilian Lawyer, Celma Hellebust, we introduced and explained the network “Brazilian Psychologists Online” — a project that offers emergency assistance to psychologists and therapy online for Brazilians living abroad to assist in integration and strengthen resilience.

Emergency and Voluntary Online Psychotherapy: Why should you consider it?Click to read the first part of the interview.

In this second part, we explore two new projects Celma and Ana Lúcia are developing to address other crucial issues: domestic violence and climate change.

Q: Can you tell us more about the project addressing domestic violence? What inspired you to focus on this issue, and how does the project aim to address it?

Violence against women is present in all layers of society. It affects in an unstoppable, devastating, and generalized way, of life, one in three women worldwide, according to recent data published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The inspiration for the creation of the project is exactly linked to this alarming statistic, which signaled the need for special attention in the adoption of measures to face the situation. The approach requires a multidisciplinary treatment and for this reason, the “Therapeutic Deck of Perception of Domestic Violence” was developed. This material is a tool for assisting women victimized as a result of their gender, aiming at perception, reflection, and coping with the situation of domestic or family violence.

The therapeutic deck, in general, is a playful tool that facilitates access to thoughts and behaviors and has been widely used by professionals from different areas.

Q: How does the project work? What resources or support are you offering to those who are affected by domestic violence?

The “Domestic Violence Perception Deck” can help the professional and the victim, based on the proposed reflections, to understand and identify any problems in the couple’s dynamics. It may facilitate the victim’s understanding of the unwanted situation, to discover the best way to face and reduce the harmful effects caused by violent events arising from the abusive relationship. It will also be able to offer emotional resources for the search for overcoming and autonomy in future decisions.

The deck is based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, offers resources and support, and can be applied as an auxiliary therapeutic and psychosocial tool. It consists of 280 letters and an instruction and guidance manual for victims and professionals. The deck addresses topics such as the Definition and discussion of what domestic violence is; Timeline of life; Brazilian women abroad; Parental alienation; Pandemic and social isolation; Abuse of alcohol, drugs, and other substances; Cycle of domestic violence; Digital violence.

Q: How do you hope this project will make a difference in addressing the issue of domestic violence?

We hope that, through the use of the deck, the victim will be able to become aware of the situation experienced and will have a behavioral change. From this behavioral change, we hope that it will be possible to solve the problem of domestic violence. Domestic violence impacts the victim’s life on an individual basis and affects the family, social and professional relationships. The victim repeatedly subjected to a violent environment is more likely to develop mental/emotional disorders and psychosomatic manifestations. It also arouses feelings of guilt, shame, social isolation, chemical dependency resulting from abuse in the use of psychotropic drugs, alcohol, or drugs, excessive weight loss or gain, and may evolve into severe situations such as suicidal ideation.

Q: Can you tell us more about the Climate Change Cards? What inspired you to focus on the risks to mental health posed by climate change, and how does the project aim to address them?

We intend to produce ludic-educational material in the form of a game and/or deck of cards that aims to offer resources for changing the behavior of the masses. The act of playing has two important characteristics: pleasure and spontaneous effort. The ludic context mobilizes mental schemes, consisting of physical and mental activity. Games activate psychological, neurological, and mental functions, facilitating learning and understanding of the proposed situation, which can lead to understanding the problem situation. From the understanding of the context, there may be a behavior change.

Regarding mental problems, according to a report by the World Health Organization, climate change can cause serious risks to the mental health and well-being of the population. The conclusions coincide with a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC/2022), which highlighted the relationship between climate change and mental health. It has been discovered that advancing climate change can result in serious damage to emotional health, with symptoms ranging from emotional distress to anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal behavior.

It should be noted that during the experience of the “Psicólogos Brasileiros Online” project, with an initial focus on Brazilians living in the Arctic and expanded to the whole world, it was noticed that themes such as Domestic Violence and Climate Change make important connections with mental health. We have the experience of building a deck of cards and a manual to promote the perception of domestic violence and the possible change in individual and social behavior.

The harmful impacts of climate change in the world are increasingly worrying, especially considering the increase in global warming. According to the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC/2022, it was demonstrated by 278 scientists from 65 countries that “for us to have a chance of keeping within reach the 1.5°C limit set by the Paris Agreement, the world must reach the peak of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within the next three years”. Such data assert that climate change is a real phenomenon and that the measures and solutions to be adopted are urgent and complex, involving a multifactorial engagement and the mobilization of public and private institutions.

The perspective that global warming will cause the melting of glaciers at the poles, altering the sea level and thereby increasing the areas of tropical zones, warns of a near future marked by a devastating scenario that will harm millions of people on the planet, notably the populations residing in regions that will be devastated by the waters. The imbalance of ecosystems may also cause damage to agriculture, fishing, and livestock, with food shortages, in addition to the extinction of species, altering the world’s flora and fauna, especially in areas of large forests such as the Amazon and also Cerrado.

Considering this scenario, it is clear that the entire population will be affected in some way, and it is essential to transform human behavior and respective lifestyle to implement the necessary measures to mitigate the environmental impacts caused by climate change.

Q: How does the project work? What resources or support are you offering to those who may be struggling with mental health issues related to climate change?

The deck of cards and/or the awareness game of the environmental impacts caused by climate change represent important tools to encourage dialogue and provoke a change in behavior in the face of the devastating prognosis presented, with the main objectives being: 

  • increase awareness of climate change;
  • promote awareness of how to react and mitigate the effects on a personal level, thinking that we are all part of this issue;
  • provoke creative thinking in the sense of adopting strategies and ways to mitigate the effects on each one’s daily life;
  • encourage engagement in educational programs to guide the causes and environmental effects caused by climate change;
  • develop daily strategies in different areas related to the type of food, the type of transport, the consumption of industrialized products, or even the disposal of garbage, with all efforts directed towards mitigating the emission of gases harmful to the environment.

Thus, the material will mainly represent a tool for the prevention and promotion of mental health. In addition, it aims to try to mitigate the harmful effects on mental health caused by climate imbalance. As this material is used on a large scale, it is expected that there will be a behavioral change in the masses and positive results for the environment.

Q: How do you hope this project will make a difference in addressing the mental health impacts of climate change?

The deck will be developed by professionals from different areas, each with knowledge that encompasses aspects related to the approach to the sensitive topic, such as psychologists, lawyers, economists, plastic artists, engineers, doctors, and security scholars, among others. We hope that this material can contribute to changing behavior about the climate since it is a topic that leads to reflection.

Q: In which stage of development are these projects and what are the next steps and support needed to make them available?

The first and most complex phase of the product on Domestic Violence and Mental Health, that is, the conception and creation of the “Therapeutic Deck of Perception of Domestic Violence”, is concluded. The product on “Environment and Mental Health” is in the initial stages of being created. Both projects require a second stage related to financial support for the materialization of the product and commercial marketing, to enable its wide dissemination and distribution.

Q: What are your plans for the future of the project?

Plans for the projects are focused on enabling distribution and access to the greatest possible number of people so that the 4 fundamental axes of the proposal are achieved: knowledge, awareness, reflection, and change in society’s behavior. We hope that the project on “Environment and Mental Health” will be taken up by both public and/or private companies, as well as governments and International Organizations such as UNESCO.

Q: How can people or companies get involved in supporting or participating in these projects?

Both themes refer to adverse situations that directly impact people’s lives and human relationships. In this sense, in the face of such an alarming demand, we believe that the commitment of companies and governments to actions aimed at building a better society is fundamental.

The deck on “Domestic Violence and Mental Health” is in the process of being sold to public and private companies and governments. The project on “Environment and Mental Health” requires financial support for its production and global availability, with potential benefit to society as a whole.

About Celma Hellebust and Ana Lucia Gonçalves:

Celma Regina Hellebust is a Brazilian lawyer and one of the founding members of BNCC.She has served as a Board member for more than ten years. She has worked with Brazilian Law in Norway since 2002 and compared HSE regulations for the oil industry between Norway and Brazil in the past five years through her own company, Hellebust International Consulting AS. Ana Lucia Gonçalves is a Brazilian psychologist who graduated from PUC Riberão Preto. She specializes in psychopedagogy, clinical psychology, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

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