COVID-19 pandemic, though is biological in nature, has already left a long trail of social issues which in turn has let to lot of psychological problems. To begin with, in the absence of medical vaccine so far, we are left with no other choice than the social vaccine – Home Quarantine, Lockdowns and Social Distancing.
The social measures taken for keeping our self away from the virus has unfortunately has also led to very serious social issues such as reverse migration, loss of job, change in livelihood, lack of food, etc. The day to day activities as well as the social events such as marriages, celebrations and even the death ceremonies could not be performed due to the social restrictions. However, since there is no better alternative for the social restrictions at this point of time, along with fighting COVID -19, the social issues that has arisen out of the social restrictions should also be looked at with equal importance to avoid long term negative consequences.
The myths regarding COVID -19 doing the rounds is one of the important social issue. Some of the myths include the spread of virus through 5G towers and so people breaking down the towers, the transmission of virus is controlled by temperature and so people taking hot water bath whereas this is a not a fact as COVID -19 is equally present in both cold and hot countries, holding the breath without any difficulty means there is no virus whereas the lab test is the only way to test COVID -19 is the fact and stocking of various medicines where actually there is no single medicine or vaccine so far found for cure of COVID -19. All these myths are widely believed by the public due to Lack of awareness among the public regarding the facts about COVID -19 which is again a major social issue.
On the other hand, equally powerful as Epidemic is infodemic. Too much of flow of information, whether right or wrong, in to our knowledge really put us in to lot of confusion and worry. The social stigma shown towards the COVID positive persons, persons from containment zones as well as the frontline workers has shown how deep COVID -19 has played with the social networks too.
All the above social issues put individuals, family and community under greater psychological risk that includes boredom, loneliness, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, hopelessness and lack of trust. As often discussed in disaster mental health context, the events, in this case the social impact, followed by any hazard (COVID -19) causes more psychosocial impact than the hazard itself. So, the one involved in providing psychosocial care in the context of COVID -19 should try to understand the underlying social cause for the psychological problems and try to alleviate the social issue rather than just trying to psychological issue which will end in vain. In other words, one has to try to change the abnormal social situation back to normal which would result in bringing down the psychological distress.
About the Author.
Dr. E. Aravind Raj, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatric Social Work, NIMHANS, Bengaluru,