Carnival madness brings joy to Rio mental institute

For residents of a Rio de Janeiro mental institute, carnival madness means more than just fun. At a street party held this week for the patients of the Nise da Silveira Institute, 1,500 patients, staff and relatives dressed up in everything from tigers to harlequin costumes or pirates. Also invited were dozens of neighbors from the modest neighborhood of Engenho de Dentro, which is close to the stadium used in the 2016 Olympic athletics contests, but far from the usual carnival territory of southern Rio. The institute used to be named the Pedro II Psychiatric Center but was renamed after Brazil’s most famous psychiatrist, da Silveira, who died in 1999. A student of Carl Jung, she revolutionized mental health practices in Brazil, leading to the abolition of aggressive treatments like lobotomy. Instead, her methods focused on bringing patients back into society — an approach that continues today at the institute. In 2001, staff turned an existing art-therapy workshop into a “bloco,” the name for the amateur street parties that spring up all over Rio in different sizes during carnival season. Like all “blocos,” it needed a catchy name and this one was called “Loucura suburbana,” roughly translating as “Madness on the outskirts.” “The goal was to get patients involved and to help the neighborhood revitalize its carnival, since the ‘blocos’ have all gone to the tourist zones,” said Ariadne de Moura Mendes, who launched the project. Sense of freedom Before hitting the streets, everyone gathered in the courtyard in their… [Read full story]


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