Research carried out during the Amazon Mission finds normality indexes for mental health problems in children and adolescents
The Maranatha Christian Church (MCC), through the eight editions of the Amazon Mission, held in the last four years, in the riverside communities of Ilha do Marajó, in the state of Pará, has worked in the social field with medical and dental voluntary actions in favor of physical health and spiritual of the population of Bagre, Melgaço, Breves, São Sebastião da Boa Vista, Vila Jerusalem, Vila Capinal and Vila Raquel. Since the first edition, the volunteer team has been formed by evangelists, health professionals and researchers, who study and analyze the living and health conditions of the residents. The speech therapist student at the University of Medical Sciences of Santa Casa de São Paulo (FCMSCSP) and volunteer at the Amazon Mission, Thais Rezende, under the guidance of Teacher Dr. Rosane Lowenthal, carried out scientific research during the two editions of the project, held in 2019, with the objective of identifying emotional and behavioral problems of children and adolescents living in this region. The project was approved by the Institutional Program for Scientific Initiation Scholarships of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and by the Scientific Committee of FCMSCSP. Then, the work was carried out that sought the prevalence rate of mental health problems in childhood and adolescence in the riverside communities of Ilha do Marajó, in the state of Pará. The work was submitted and accepted at a psychiatry congress in Brazil, “Congress on Brain, Behavior and Emotions 2020”, presented in poster form, on November 28th. On December 7th, the report of this scientific research was presented to the Scientific Forum of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of Santa Casa de São Paulo.
After approval of the research by the Research Ethics Committee of the Brotherhood of Holy House of Mercy of São Paulo and authorization by the president of the Amazon Mission, Pastor João Cidade, the graduate student and volunteer, Thais Rezende performed the data collection in the period of May 26th to June 3rd, as well as October 27th to November 4th, 2019. A questionnaire was used that identified the prevalence of emotional and behavioral problems in children aged 4 to 17 years in the municipalities of Melgaço, Bagre, Vila Jerusalem, Vila Boa Vista, São Sebastião da Boa Vista and Vila Raquel.
107 questionnaires were filled out by mothers of children and adolescents from 4 to 17 years old, after screening for pediatric medical care. “I carried out the interview during the waiting period of the mothers who had gone through the triage and were waiting for the appointment,” said Thais Rezende. As some of the mothers had difficulties in reading and understanding, the researcher read the free and informed consent sheet; Then, she explained that the data would not be released, but only the results of the research; finally, after the mothers signed the free and informed consent form, the questions of the questionnaire were read and marked to the answers accordingly.
“Curiosity about the region is what motivated me”
Thais Rezende had already participated as a volunteer in three other editions of the Amazon Mission and, as she had started the speech therapy college, she was curious about the development of children living in riverside cities. With many study ideas for the Amazon region, the researcher got the support of a professor who had similar projects in several places in Brazil, Professor Dr. Rosane Lowenthal, who agreed to guide this scientific research. “And it was curiosity about the region that motivated me and also the role we play, in addition to social, medical, evangelistic assistance, social inclusion together with the Maranatha Christian Church”, said Thais Rezende.
The final result exceeds the researcher’s expectations
After analyzing the sample of 107 questionnaires applied to mothers of children, with an average of nine years, the relevant results were:
- 3% attend school every day
- 30% have difficulty learning
- 7% repeated some school grade
- 1% of mothers never sought a mental health professional for their children
- The total mean for mental health problems was 11.06% (score within the normal range, according to the questionnaire protocols)
- The last data evaluated the mental health problems was 11.06% (score within the normal range, according to the questionnaire protocols)
The last data evaluated the mental health problems, which was the objective of the researcher’s study, which surprised her for being a lower and statistically significant average, according to the study protocol. The data found suggests that the studied population showed no signs of mental health problems.
The only significant difference found was in the problem of conduct between urban (61.1%) and rural (38.9%) areas. Conduct problem is when a pattern of behavior becomes repetitive and persistent, violating other people’s basic rights, norms, or social rules. For example, aggression against people and animals, provocations, threats, physical fights, acts of cruelty, destruction of property, theft, thefts, lies often to obtain things, violation of parental rules, running away from home, among others.
“In summary, we found no signs of mental health problems in this population, nor any difference between genders, nor between ages, nor between regions. Only conduct problems that proved to be more prevalent in the urban than in the rural areas and statistically significant”, concluded Thais Rezende.
Comparing the results to the city of São Paulo
There was a similar study conducted in the city of São Paulo, in 2011, which analyzed three populations that lived in different locations. In the favela, which lacks basic sanitation, high rates of symptoms of mental illness were found, compared to urban and rural areas. In the riverside communities there is also no basic sanitation, however, the result was favorable, with no likelihood of mental illness.
Another study carried out in the city of São Paulo, in 2019, showed three factors associated with the high rates of child psychiatric disorders: poverty, psychiatric illness of parents and family violence. There is no scientific information on the parents’ psychiatric illness on Marajó Island, but poverty is found according to IBGE data, with Melgaço being the worst HDI municipality in the country: 43.92% of the population lives in extreme poverty; and 73.43% is considered poor. In Bagre, 59.68% of the population is considered poor; and 28.34%, live in extreme poverty. In São Sebastião da Boa Vista, 56.65% of the population is considered poor; and 31.46% in extreme poverty.
Sleep habits is the next job on Marajó Island
During the collection of data on mental health, another questionnaire on sleep habits was also carried out jointly. With this, another project by the researcher is already being carried out to compare the mental health problem with sleep habits. This research is in the data analysis phase.
In conclusion, the researcher believes that the protective factors reported in the literature, that is, the influence of the school, the teacher and the church, may have contributed to the favorable indexes of children’s mental health.
“When we have the Lord in our life, everything changes. With Christ on the boat, everything is going very well. It calms the storm. Mental health problems can happen to anyone and also affect children and adolescents. But, through the Word of God, the church shows that we are not alone and that makes a huge difference in any region.” Thais Rezende concluded.
In this way, the work that the Maranatha Christian Church (MCC) has carried out through the Amazon Mission, with the support of the Maranatha International Christian Mission (MICM), has contributed to mental health, taking through the Gospel of the Sacred Scriptures, the consolation, the peace of mind and refreshment for the less fortunate, who live in conditions of extreme poverty, but who have a “Word of Hope” engraved on their minds and hearts to overcome social obstacles in their communities.
By Andréia Talma
Translated by Sara Abbasova