Brazil hungry for good news during Covid-19 pandemic

. May 02, 2020
Brazil hungry for good news during Covid-19 pandemic Photo: WonderJ/Shutterstock

Brazil is in the middle of what could well become the most deadly epidemic of the country’s history. Deaths have surpassed 6,000 and are set to continue their vertiginous climb over the coming weeks. Meanwhile, key figures of the Brazilian government — including President Jair Bolsonaro — have chosen to bury their heads in the sand. Government Secretary Luiz Eduardo Ramos complained that the press coverage in Brazil during the pandemic has been overly negative, pleading for journalists to print “positive news.”

“On the morning news it’s coffins, bodies; at lunchtime, it’s coffins again. On the evening news it’s coffins, bodies, and numbers of dead people,” he griped.

</p> <p>While this may sound rich coming from a member of a government which has done <a href="">little to combat the spread of the virus</a>, led by a president who actively encourages public gatherings and <a href="">urges people to break social isolation rules</a>, the fact is there is a global yearning for some morsels of positive news within the chaos. Stories of brave recoveries of Covid-19 patients, breakthrough treatments, selfless acts of charity, and demonstrations of social solidarity have been shared widely across social media and have made major newsrooms reflect on the apocalyptic tone of some of their content.</p> <h2>A &#8216;light at the end of the tunnel&#8217;</h2> <p>In Brazil, a group of four web developers in the northeastern state of Pernambuco launched the open-source news aggregator <a href="">The Good News Coronavírus</a>, which collects uplifting stories from around the world. Sold as a &#8220;lighthouse of hope for those who are drowning in an ocean of bad news,&#8221; The Good News Coronavírus largely features articles on scientific developments, patient recoveries, and improving Covid-19 data in countries around the world.</p> <p>One of the founders of the website, 27-year-old developer Fernando Fernandes, told newspaper <em>Folha de S. Paulo</em> that the cycle of negative news was affecting his mental health. &#8220;I have family who are in [Covid-19] risk groups, and reading about it was making me feel really bad,&#8221; he said. &#8220;Then I started looking around and found that there wasn&#8217;t just bad news, I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted other people to have that feeling.&#8221;</p> <p>Besides a constantly updated feed of positive news stories, the website also features links to a number of donation links for NGOs and hospitals, as well as a section on free services for those isolating at home.</p> <p>Elsewhere in Brazil, major newspapers <em>Folha de S. Paulo</em> and <em>O Estado de S. Paulo </em>have dedicated sections to positive news, with the former setting up its &#8220;<a href="">Better Days</a>&#8221; editorial desk, and the latter providing a <a href="">weekly round-up</a> of positive stories from around the web.</p> <h2>Good news around the world</h2> <p>There is no shortage of similar examples in major newsrooms around the world, with many of these &#8220;good news platforms&#8221; being set up long before the coronavirus outbreak. <em>The Washington Post</em> regularly posts uplifting stories to its <a href="">Inspired Life</a> blog and is sending out a <a href="">twice-weekly newsletter</a> &#8220;with stories to help you disconnect, hit refresh, and start the week off right.&#8221;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Actor John Krasinski — from &#8220;The Office&#8221; fame — set up his own YouTube channel devoted to sharing positive stories. After just over a month, &#8220;<a href="">Some Good News</a>&#8221; has 2.21 million subscribers and its videos have been viewed almost 50 million times. Likewise, several &#8220;good news&#8221; Instagram accounts have exploded in popularity in recent weeks, sharing stories such as that of a mother in the U.S. who lost her job during the Covid-19 pandemic, <a href="">but is now making a fortune by crafting picnic tables for squirrels</a>, or that of a blind woman from Massachusetts who &#8220;<a href="">ran the Boston Marathon</a>&#8221; in her own basement after the yearly race was canceled.&nbsp;</p> <h2>The health benefits of good news</h2> <p>As<strong> The Brazilian Report</strong> showed on May 1, <a href="">self-isolation is taking its toll</a> on Brazilian mental health. The country is already the Latin American leader in cases of clinical depression — affecting around 5.8 percent of the population — and Brazilians are more likely to suffer from anxiety than any other nationality in the world. A World Health Organization study from 2019 said that 9.3 percent of Brazil&#8217;s population was diagnosed with anxiety disorder.</p> <p>During the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers from the State University of Rio de Janeiro concluded that symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress have doubled since the beginning of social isolation measures. The onslaught of depressing news is seen as an aggravating factor.</p> <p>&#8220;Bad news grabs our attention much more than good news,&#8221; explained trained psychologist and psychoanalyst Ana Regina Sardinha, speaking to <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>. &#8221; This occurs because our brains have a habit of paying more attention to potentially dangerous content, as something of a survival instinct.&#8221;</p> <p>Ms. Sardinha says that the human brain doesn&#8217;t have the time to digest such an excessive quantity of news. &#8220;This repeated exposure to negative content can make something positive, such as a mild feeling of fear, turn into something much more traumatic,&#8221;</p> <p>She warns that just as we take care of our physical health, people should be paying attention to their mental wellbeing during the period of social isolation. &#8220;Look for some pleasurable activities, like a good book, a good film, or a chat on the phone.&#8221;

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Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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