Nepal | July 04, 2020

Corona psychology: Spreading ‘Namaste’ culture

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The main objective of tackling this havoc, or curtailing the spread of this virus, which knows no geographical boundary, is to ‘protect yourself first’, then only will you be able to ‘save others’. This will benefit everyone

Corona is now a pandemic. Affecting 120 countries around the globe, the virus has taken almost 5,000 lives, infecting around 150,000 people. This is the statistics that is visible; the media has not left a single stone unturned to reveal these figures, even WHO is publishing a daily bulletin. But, what is concealed is how the infected (but alive) and even the unaffected population (but who could be infected anytime in the future) are living or spending their days and nights? “What is their psychology at present?” is still not visible to the public. Indeed, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has frustrated even the developed world in just three months. It has actually not spared any nationality, race, religion, culture, geographical location, socio-economic standing; any one in any part of the world can be affected any time in the future. Actually, the person to be affected depends upon his or her immunity response. The status of their immunity decides whether the case becomes complicated or fatal. So, corona should not be a matter of shame, guilt or stigma.

The media, social networks and news portals have actually contributed greatly in making the general public aware of the situation. But, ironically, these social portals have also added to the unnecessary and panicky rumours; fear and anxiety have been disproportionately enhanced among the public. These fear-laden communications, with-in and with-out in the general society, have scaled up the ‘anxiety-levels’ to such a height that their psychology has been irreversibly broken down. Everyone thinks they may have the ‘corona’, and it actually amounts to ‘ultimate death’. There has been so much buzz as if the world is coming to an end due to the coronavirus.

Statistics show, till now, less than 3 per cent of those infected has died due to corona-related complications, and deaths are among the already immune-compromised elderly and frail people. More than 95 per cent are actually being treated and recovering. So the media figures are really gloomy. In order to uplift the psyche of the general population, the media houses must use the statistical figures judiciously and try to picturise the recovering population and display positive images as far as possible.

The people with COVID-19 are ‘human beings’. They should be assured that as soon as their infections get controlled, they can come back to their work-stations, family and society, and live the rest of their lives normally. If we do not do this, their psychology shall be jeopardised irrecoverably despite being infection-free.

The main objective of tackling this havoc, or curtailing the spread of this virus, which knows no geographical boundary, is to ‘protect yourself first’, then only will you be able to ‘save others’. This will benefit everyone. We may close schools, shopping malls, public transportation, prohibit gatherings, conferences or parties, but hospitals need to be open 24X7. Students, teachers, businessmen or other job-holders may get days off, or they may even carry out their work virtually via the Internet, but the health workers have to devote maximum time in-person to delivering health services.

So, during this period of a pandemic, health workers are highly stressed. Hence, our steps should be more devoted to saving the psychological life of all the health professionals. They should adopt a healthy lifestyle; take adequate rest, regular exercises, healthy food and water; and engage in regular and normal contacts with their families and society. They must stay away from drugs, tobacco, liquor and the like.

Another important aspect during a disaster situation like this pandemic is Psychological First Aid (PFA). This form of treatment does not require qualified doctors or mental health professionals. Paramedics, nurses, ambulance drivers, teachers, social workers, volunteers or political leaders, anyone can adopt PFA. They should themselves be stress-free and prepared psychologically as well. They need to be oriented regarding the location, culture, geo-political scenario, available services and support-systems at the disaster point.

In PFA, the affected people should be content with the security provision; their dignity and human rights issues should be well-respected. Their basic needs (healthy food, clean water, appropriate and reliable information) must be fulfilled. Extra considerations regarding their needs and wishes should be taken. They should get sufficient knowledge regarding the spread of infections and how they are being tackled around the world. They should feel well-connected with their family and society; if direct communication is not possible, provision of telephone and social media should be taken.

Extra care should be taken for children, elderly, disabled and chronically ill population. Provision of sports and entertainment facility should be established properly for the children and youngsters. They should get quality time for communication with the caretakers. Similar provision should be made for the infected and quarantined population staying in isolation. In these situations, spirituality is also of great concern, particularly, in our part of the world.

Our main concern should be to curtail the spread of corona as far as possible. Our culture of greeting with a ‘Namaste’ should be well-practised, which is being well-practised worldwide.

Risal is a psychiatrist at Dhulikhel Hospital

A version of this article appears in print on March 17, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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