Fighting psychological war against Covid-19 pandemic

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WASEEM KHOKHAR
SINCEthe emergence ofCOVID-19 pandemic,the whole world has entered into medical war and a mental health battle. At this present scenario, if there is a key to winning both it appears to be with the help and support of one another. This is hardly the first crisis of this magnitude that societies across the globe have had to muddle through, and in terms of the ultimate body count, even worst case scenarios suggest that it won’t be the bloodiest. Everyone particularly our writers, media and social activists are to play their due role to mitigate the sense of depression, anxiety and fear, and psychological issues related to the pandemic. Using the word COVID-19 pandemic despite the Corona Virus would help deal with psychological problems and fear amongst public. In this war against novel COVID-19 pandemic, we have no such luxury. An iron curtain has descended across the threshold of every house and apartment as the war rages on in Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care Units in hospitals. In response to rapidly escalating COVID-19 virus, countries across the globe are closing down restaurants, sports facilities, educational institutions, theatres, cinemas, parks and any other public places where people gather to share the essential happiness of life. People are being asked to shut themselves in, to limit their contact with others, and only to go out for necessities. Moreover, the travel restrictions are meant to control spread of COVID-19 pandemic. As in fight against the virus, thousands of people have lost their lives, millions have been displaced and the virus has created a sense of paranoia and fear. In this time, when most of the people are expressing a sense of loss, helplessness and anxiety, here is great role thatMedia could play to keep the masses abreast to the latest information and awareness about the pandemic despite creating sense of depression, fear and anxiety. There is a dire need to boost courage of general public with an aim to control and mitigate this deadly pandemic while seeking forgiveness according to one’s own belief. As the days and weeks have gone by the stresses and strains have extended into family relations and financial worries. In many cases salaried people have gone unpaid, jobs have been lost and businesses have gone under. Dealing with that while confined to your house, with the threat of a new, and potentially deadly virus, has placed people under huge psychological pressure. Here are some ways that can minimize psychological pressure and we can win this war courageously against this pandemic. Firstly, facts lessen anxiety and fear, we need to stay informed by trusted sources. In such kind of national rather international health emergency, there are two trusted sources, “One is World Health Organization (WHO); the other is your national authority (Government). The danger is that with headlines blaring around us, news outlets vying to be the first to break news, and our social media feeds locking us in echo chambers, there’s a risk of an ‘infodemic’, in which misinformation spreads. All this will put us into a panic state. Everyone wants to remain informed and updated, therefore, we must know credible facts, speak to the people you trust and grounding in prayer. We can try to stop reading headlines that create fear and anxiety. Secondly, in times of crisis we are passing through, we must always return to ourselves, be aware of yourself, and identify which emotions are yours, which are the patients, and which are your empathy. Thirdly, we must ponder over mental health as part of public health response to COVID-19. The government must focus on psychological issues and to initiate measures to address mental health issues in response to pandemic. The Government should collaborate with WHO, UNICEF to integrate WHO’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support programme (MHPSS) into COVID-19 response. Fourthly, social isolation is associated with poor mental health. In social isolation and quarantining in order to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic, we must stay connected with social and family networks via technology, keeping daily routines as much as possible, exercising regularly and practicing habits that you enjoy and find relaxing, seeking practical, credible information at specific times of the day. Finally, by using media, we need to shift narratives away from number of deaths toward number of recoveries. There often seems to be a dearth of positive stories about COVID-19 pandemic and those who recover. Additionally, the negative effects of stigmatizing language such as attaching region or ethnicity to the virus or blaming people for transmission exacerbate the sense of fear at the macro level. Journalists, news outlets and everyday citizens can help increase hope and allay fear by being cognizant of the language they use in speaking about COVID-19. In fact, a sense of hope instead of fear could allow leaders and everyday citizens to better cooperate with one another–a vital element in defeating this outbreak. We have no choice but to shoulder the burden, not just to save the vulnerable but also to protect the health and sanity of frontline doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, to say nothing of unsung heroes like grocery store clerks and delivery drivers, even media persons. Our borders may be closed and our cities shut down, but our many forms of communication, our hearts and minds can and should remain open. This is time to think and reset our policies focusing on health and education (awareness linked to education) as top most priorities at national and also international level to cope with such kind of situation in times of pandemic. —The writer is freelance columnist, based in Islamabad