HT SPOTLIGHT: Stop ostracising, start accepting

Updated on Jun 05, 2020 05:26 PM IST

As we move ahead in our battle against Covid-19, the stigma attached with patients and frontline workers has exacerbated their suffering.

the stigma attached with patients and frontline workers has exacerbated the suffering, experts decode it(Istockimages)
the stigma attached with patients and frontline workers has exacerbated the suffering, experts decode it(Istockimages)
Hindustan Times | BySwati Chaturvedi

With India reaching a considerable number of infections when it comes to Covid-19, all of us will come in contact with someone who might have contracted it at some point in the days to come. They could be our friends, our family, our neighbours and our colleagues. The coming generations will judge us how we treated them. Unfortunately, as we move ahead in our battle against Covid-19, the stigma attached with patients and frontline workers has exacerbated the suffering.

Radhika Bapat, Clinical Psychotherapist, says, “Humans are capable of dehumanizing a COVID patient as the Nazi’s did the Jews, the white supremacists do to people of other colour. We are hard-wired to physically distance ourselves from others who could infect us.”

The ‘just-world fallacy’ makes us believe that people who contract the disease must have done something wrong. Ashwini Kumar, Retired IAS and author, says, “The stigma harms the mental and physical health of people with disease. This stigma can take the forms of social rejection, gossip, physical violence, and denial of services. Experiencing stigma from others can lead to elevated depressive symptoms, stress, and substance use.”

Education is one of the most popular tools to deconstruct stigma. It can dispel harmful stereotypes about the disease. In this regard, social media posts from celebrities who have dealt with people who have the disease are also likely to help lift the taboo. Like Farah Ali Khan, jewellery designer, Farah Khan Ali recently tweeted about one of her staff members contracting Covid-19, and how she brought him home and looked after him in quarantine. When her neighbours asked if she was going to get him home, the jewellery designer replied saying,When a family member gets ill, don’t you get them at home? Of Course, he will be home!.Khan says that ostracising Covid-19 patients is the most cruel thing to do, and urges all to be empathetic towards them.

Sahiba Sethi, Counseling Psychologist, Umeed Healing, says, “Health experts and psychologists must speak up and leverage mass media and social media to address these concerns. Before releasing a cured COVID patient, hospitals must consider having not just them but their families, friends, and neighbours be spoken to together and allay their fears in a calm manner.”

She further adds, “Cured patients must also attend a couple of mandatory counseling sessions to help them cope and move ahead in life. In fact, giving them proper counseling and understanding their mindset would help them emotionally in a positive way.” Small and timely interventions at the right places will go a long way in avoiding suicides and disturbing consequences.

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