We wish to discuss today about an issue that is a sensitive one. Over the past 2-3 months, we have seen how COVID-19 has increased its footprint across the world and the impact it has had on our daily livelihoods, habits and most importantly, our minds.
Social stigma is a peculiar issue that has been in our societies since time immemorial. However, the stigma that we wish to highlight today is the one faced by COVID-19 frontline warriors as well as those fortunate people who have recovered from COVID-19 and are hale and healthy again.
So, let us understand what exactly is this social stigma that we are talking about. By definition, in context of health - It is a negative association between a person or a group of people who share certain characteristics or a specific disease. This results in discriminatory practices against people of anyone perceived to have been in contact with the virus.
You might have heard of discrimination against Air India rescuing staff which brought many Indians stranded in Wuhan as well as other parts of the world.
Many other incidents have been reported about discrimination against doctors and healthcare professionals, police, and sanitary workers who are working on the frontline in this difficult situation. This social stigma is rampant because of undue fear, and misinformation.
People who have recovered from COVID-19 are afraid of the stigma that could be attached to them and therefore they do not disclose that they ever had COVID-19 or that they recovered. This discrimination should be countered immediately in order to safeguard our community and must be empowered with health literacy during this adversity. Just consider the fact that people might not disclose their symptoms because they are afraid how the society will treat them rather than worrying about the cure for their disease and seeking prompt action!
At MissionToCure Homeopathy clinic, we have had patients who have recovered from COVID-19 (You can read many of their stories by visiting http://www.missiontocure.com/covid19). However, most of them are reluctant to share their recovery experience so that other people may benefit from their story and take action in time. The reasons are multifold with the major ones being, “What if my company fires me from my job?”, “What will my relatives and society say? I might be treated like an untouchable!”, “What if someone sees my photo or video online and stop coming to my shop altogether?”
We, as doctors understand this. Afterall, if you would observe as a community, the medical fraternity would rank very high in COVID positive cases across the globe. Many of our brethren are working in extremely difficult conditions and very long hours. We must act today as responsible citizens and stop this stigma from becoming a monster too difficult to control.
As a responsible citizen we should:
COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease which spreads fast and can infect any and many of us. We must follow Govt. guidelines and protect everyone through social distancing, washing our hands regularly, wear a mask, stay home if we find any symptoms developing and immediately contact a doctor. Kindly follow coughing and sneezing etiquettes.
Despite precautions if ANYBODY catches the infection, it’s not their fault. Please don’t outcast the person but rather take the necessary steps and provide help to his/her family and take care of them. In this crucial situation, patients and family need our support and cooperation. Remember, the rate of recovery is pretty decent and it is curable. Do watch this video and see the emotions of the housing society members welcoming a COVID-19 recovered patient in Mumbai.
Healthcare workers are continuously rendering their services tirelessly to provide care and medical support. Even police and sanitary workers are acting as pillars in this situation. They all deserve our cooperation, and support. Targeting them will weaken our fight against corona.
Behave warmly with the patients who have recovered, don’t discriminate with them. Learn more and understand from their journey and their ordeal about coronavirus and take adequate precautions as well as increase awareness. Post a 15-day quarantine after recovering COVID-19, it is not seen that they transmit the virus. They need your love and affection rather than discrimination which creates mental pressure and depression.
One of the major reasons responsible for creating mental stigma these days is a bundle of fake news through social media and other sources. Read: How to identify fake news? Don’t believe in any of the news unless and until it has some verified source and report if you come across any fake news.
So, as a responsible citizen, please follow the above steps and contribute to this fight against Corona.
Stay sensitive, Stay alert, Stay home, Stay safe.