Dealing with stress and stigma during pandemicPosted on
Pandemics can be stressful. It is causing a lot of fear and anxiety about what could possibly happen, and it can be overwhelming emotionally in adults and children. Health actions in public such as social distancing, wearing of face masks and face shield always make people feel isolated and increases the anxiety of being exposed to the ‘unseen’ virus, anywhere, anytime. However, these actions are health protocols we need to observe to rid of transmissions.
But coping with stress during pandemic needs to be seen as a healthy approach to make us all stronger as individuals and as a bigger community. Talking to some friends, relatives and colleagues at work online, they vented on some common issues which seemed disturbing and challenging to a certain extent.
Certainly, COVID-19 outbreak caused so much fear and anxiety about one’s own health as well as their loved ones. The financial crunch after losing a job including that support from a family member working abroad, will certainly tilt the balance affecting mental stability.
But the situation is at its worst, when you hear friends have passed on.
The experience of grief is indescribable. The only son of our fallen manicurista would call me for hours, narrating how he missed his mother and vented on hospital protocols in between sobs, but feeling so sorry for not seeing his beloved mother for the last time. He even asked, “si mama ba kaha ning among gihilakan karon?” as the family was not allowed viewing the corpse of Adela before cremation.
The stress and anxiety grows when one is struck with shock and disbelief, or denial. When I heard about Pia’s passing recently, it broke our hearts, and I know how hard it was for my brother who was closest to her to accept the fact of losing such a dear friend.
Grieving, they say is a normal response to loss of life. But the isolation that this pandemic has created, also made coping differently without seeing friends and families in person. However, we are constantly reminded that there is a bigger picture about losing more lives, and even livelihoods, in the face of this pandemic.
And these losses sometimes happen at the same time, which can complicate or prolong grief and delay our ability to adapt, heal, and recover.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak is also compounded by stigma. Stigma, as we all know is also associated with a person’s lack of knowledge about COVID-19. Hence, we easily point a finger against someone suspected as carrier of the virus or as the one spreading the disease. Stigma is also about those who have less or no idea at all but fears about disease and death, and they gossip to spread rumors and myths.
Another friend who successfully recovered from COVID-19 had been released from home isolation, but the social stigma is more terrifying as negative behaviors by people including labeling are just as discriminating. It certainly hurts, and it makes more fear and anxiety unbearable. Worse, people develop the tendency to hide symptoms or illness, and may likely not seek health care if stigmatism prevails.
Hence, social stigma will make it more difficult to control the outbreak.
Stopping stigma may be as challenging, but also equally important and urgent at this point. Stigmatized individuals suffer isolation, depression, anxiety or even public embarrassment. Our health care system should include the facts to help stop stigma related to Covid-19.
Dealing with stress and stigma during pandemic, also call on community leaders and public officials to seek ways and channels in communicating accurate information about how the virus spreads.