Learning About Mental Health in Brazil

“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured… Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to”
-Susan Cain

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Introversion
Ever since I could remember, I’ve always been different. Meeting new people has always been daunting and challenging for me. Described by most as quiet and shy, it’s sometimes difficult for me to navigate the world.

As I grew older, I started to research about personality. I soon realized that in addition to these traits, I am also very introverted. To elaborate, I am often consumed by my internal world—distracted by ideas and observations. I love people but sometimes I’m overstimulated and need to spend time alone to recharge. Living in a culture where being outgoing and social are pillars of success, it’s challenging to be introverted.

Why GCELE?
Despite my reserved personality, I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. Before my trip, I simultaneously experienced excitement and hesitation. While some people worried about possible encounters with snakes or hiking up mountains at night, the thought about leaving my comfort zone scared me the most. However, I was determined to face my fears and take on Brazil.

Brazil 
My GCELE to Brazil blew all my expectations. The landscape in Brazil is breathtaking, but the people, tradition, and culture are even more beautiful. Among many things, we learned about coffee production, nutrition, environmental sustainability, and equitable practices.

Mental Health and Brazil
One afternoon, our team visited a centre in the nearby city, which provides services for at-risk families. The centre also acts as a liaison to external services such as housing. One of the centre’s programs focuses on traditional dance and music. During our visit, we had the opportunity to dance and play instruments with the children. This was by far my favourite experience in Brazil.

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Reflecting On my Experience
As a student in the Addictions and Mental Health Worker program, I learn about Canadian mental health services. Since we learn mostly about Western practices, it’s often easy to forget that there is no universal definition of mental health.

In Brazil, I learned about the benefits of community programming, which heavily focuses on connecting youth with their cultural ways of knowing and doing. The traditional music and dance program is one way for the children to express themselves, learn about history and culture, and socialize with other children.

I came to Brazil with the understanding that mental health must be approached through a holistic understanding. My time in Brazil has taught me that improving mental health does not solely equate to addressing people’s problems. Mental health initiatives and programs must also explore activities that improve mental health, such as music, exercise, gardening, cooking, and art. Helping children develop skills and discover what they like to do can have long-term mental health benefits.

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Take Away
Each person I met in Brazil has a different narrative and perspective on life. Instead of trying to change the way I am, I learned to embrace what makes me unique. I learned that being different is a good thing because you bring a different perspective to the team.

Not only did sojourning give me the opportunity to experience a new culture, but as a result, I became more open-minded and conscientious. My GCELE gave me the opportunity to learn about mental health in Brazil while simultaneously reflecting on my own mental health.

Written by: Caitlin Cosgrove

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