MENTAL HEALTH IN COVID

Corona Pandemic is a global challenge and more daunting for the poor countries. Allah be willing, this “SHALL TOO PASS”, however, it has started to impact our mental health. While this curse struck the World, the humankind was unprecedentedly interconnected, interdependent and communicative that the world was termed as a “global village”. The globalization was at its peak which warranted highest levels of interaction, travelling, communication and integration. Besides this, we are living in the age of Social Media which allows free and intense flow of information. In 1990, Philip Strong had said, “our daily lives are ordered by innumerable behaviors and actions that happen on auto-pilot. Many of these auto-pilot behaviors are related to social interactions and hygiene”. On the whole, Corona had suddenly severed all forms of communication and connectedness, less social media. Global village had been transformed in to smallest dwellings and households. The medium of social media has gained greater potency.

As regards social impact, first and foremost, Corona is impacting human psychology which forms bed rock of social problems. Humans have an evolutionary survival orientation—a primal skill of survival designed to help us survive the worst. With social interactions ceased, humans are in the grip of growing fear, suspicion, panic and irrationality. When we are rattled by the question, “Am I safe?” describing the feeling of fear. If the danger is invisible or incalculable – when one cannot see the enemy or the threat, but only the results – the fear may become more intense: an uncomfortable feeling of terror or dread. Then thoughts, “Could I die? Will I die? Will others I know and care about die?” start emerging. It is natural for us to start to view, every cough, sneeze, breath, communally-touched item with fear, terror, and dread.

Suspicion and its underlying belief that danger could be nearby, but can’t readily be verified, impacts our behavior. We may suspect other people may have the disease. We may suspect medical practitioners are not doing enough to effectively respond to the medical threat. We may suspect governments are not releasing true and accurate information. We may suspect the media is releasing inaccurate or sensational fear-inducing stories. We may suspect neighbors are stocking up on daily living supplies and that there will not be enough left for ourselves when we need it. This feeling of “scared to lose, scared to die” could get amplified in to crisis. For some, fear and suspicion can rise to the level of irrationality.

When disease arrives, the essential positivity is replaced by fear and suspicion. From a sociological perspective, humans then share those fears and suspicions through language to others. This phenomenon is heightened in the era of globalization; social media makes it easier and faster, and harder to contain. In tangible terms, the ill-effects could be:

  • Economic impact and Financial insecurity
  • Decreased business and trade
  • Price gouging
  • Unemployment
  • Food shortages due to panic buying
  • Psychological impact
  • Domestic violence
  • Educational impact

Allah be willing pandemic will be over sooner or later, fighting its ill-effects will be long drawn and daunting. Dr Elisa Pieri said, “pandemics often created inequalities, as well as exacerbating existing social inequalities that were already experienced in pre-pandemic times.”

Suggestions for coping & finding a middle path

  • A clearer understanding of how individuals and societies are affected by a pandemic for a better understanding of how to prevent an epidemic from becoming a social crisis.
  • Recognize that the tasks of daily living take more energy in an epidemic. Figure out what can be postponed and spend more time in self-care.
  • Identify what can be controlled and implement measures to control them. Identify things that can’t be controlled and let those things go.
  • Avoid leaning towards a natural tendency to catastrophize the issue. For example, “It is possible I could get the virus, but it is not probable.”
  • Assert control where it will be useful such as new social patterns of washing hands, not touching our faces and social distancing.
  • Engage in activities that develop our calmness and composure, such as yoga, mindfulness, and meditation.
  • Turn off screens for several hours a day to engage in exercise, reading or other pleasurable hobbies.
  • Increase your connection with loved ones by spending time together and expressing affection.
  • Find support with a mentor, wise friend, medical or mental health practitioner if you find that concerns about the virus are interfering with your ability to engage in the responsibilities of daily life.
  • Look for opportunities to engage in “random acts of kindness” that will increase our own positive feelings as well as strengthen the social fabric that binds us together as a community.
  • Be clear about the type of media reports you are consuming. Media reports without clear messages about how to protect yourself will increase anxiety.
  • Listen to information provided by friends and family and share information with others discerningly. Is it a fact? What is the source? Is it helpful or anxiety-provoking?
  • When spending time getting informed about the Coronavirus be sure to spend more time on official sites that provide reliable information about risk and guidance on coping.

Above all strengthen your faith. Trust in Allah. May Allah protect us all.

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