RIO DE JANEIRO, September 29 (Reuters) – Most weekday mornings, as the sun begins to heat up the golden arc of Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach, Amanda Brandao sinks into the blue-green Atlantic and joins a group of swimmers seeking to release their stress on the shore.
The early morning ritual, shared with around 20 other swimmers, brought Brandao much-needed relief from the brutal coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 600,000 people in Brazil. The university professor suffered from a stress-related illness during the outbreak and said swimming in the cold waters of Copacabana helped her recover.
“I’ve had treatment before but it didn’t work,” she said. “So I decided to start swimming because a friend recommended it, and it changed my life.”
Millions of people around the world have suffered from mental health issues as a result of the pandemic. Weeks and months of isolation at home, with work and childcare turned upside down as disease ravaged many communities, many are struggling to cope.
Last year, United Nations health experts said a pandemic-related mental illness crisis was looming.
Gabriela Abritta, a clinical psychologist in Rio, said as people emerged from the worst of the epidemic in Brazil in the first half of the year, many were taking stock of the damage it had caused and struggling. against what they had encountered.
“Now that people are freer, after the vaccination, people are starting to feel what happened,” Abritta said. “I see that sport makes the difference”.
Bernardo Tillmann, one of the people taking the swimmers out to sea, was convinced that the ocean could help the many people he had seen arriving as they suffered from depression.
“Talking about mental health is taboo,” he said. “When you come to the open water it helps everyone.”
Guillermo Rodrigues, a local doctor, said swimming in the sea has now become an integral part of his personal care regimen.
“We have the feeling that life is getting back to normal, but not without taking care of ourselves,” he said.
Writing by Gabriel Stargardter Editing by Alistair Bell
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