Mental Suffering and Risk Society in Brazil

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 6B P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Thiago Marques LEAO, School of Public Health of the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sayuri GOTO, Julio de Mesquista Filho State University of São Paulo, Brazil
Ricardo de Lima JURCA, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Maria Izabel Sanches COSTA, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
This essay aims to reflect about mental suffering, in contemporary society, understood as the product of profound changes in western industrial societies, within a context of reflective modernization. Differently from the first modernization process, now the certainties of industrial society itself are called into question, thus throwing the individual into the ‘turbulent waters’ of what Ulrich Beck named ‘Risk Society’. Within this context, risks result from human decisions and their consequences or collateral effects, which result from the successes and radicalization of the modern processes.  The risks are not perceived as external, natural or divine, but as the result of the choices taken by individuals. This produces what Beck calls the Individualizing Process, or Individualization, that relates to the deconstruction of the life structure which constitutes modern industrial societies and to the (re)construction of a new structure, in which the individuals should produce, decide and assume responsibility for their own biographies. Here, the life projects, the risks, the decisions and their choices and consequences come to be perceived and centred in the individual. New ways of social reintegration deconstruct the symbolic frame of reference. The choices and individual burden of self-biography produces a kind of 'biographies and identities of risk', susceptible to crises and deeper mental suffering. A kind of 'subjectivity of risk', crossed by crises and by mental suffering, due to the overhead of the individual, abandoned to their choices, condemned to their freedoms and choices. Brazil, which passes through an acceleration of industrial development, profound changes in the family, labor market and consumption, and epidemiological transformations - typical transformations of the individualization process - faces a rising tide of mental illness. It is essential to understand this scenario and the specifics of the risk society, to approach an understanding of contemporary forms of suffering and how to handle them.