Psychosocial aftereffects of Covid-19
The waves of fear, panic, stigma, and calls to action seem to characterize the immediate reaction in pandemics. Pandemics may also present serious threats to global economy and welfare. Social and political response in many areas are also affected by the pandemic.The damage to other public order is shaped by the overall ravages made by the pandemic. Communities are exposed to emotional turbulence which seems temporarily beyond anyone's control.
Psychosocial pandemics are not just the special micro-sociology or social psychology. It has own pandemic nature, quite distinct from the pandemic of disease. It can spread rapidly from person to person, thereby creating a major collective and individual impact with a much wider variety of forms.
At least three types of psychosocial pandemic effects appear to be spreading worldwide as aftermath of COVID-19: waves of individual and collective panic, outbursts of interpretation as to why the COVID-19 occurred and moral controversy, and control strategies. A sharp distinction cannot be made between the different types of potential psychosocial pandemics, rather they are inseparably intertwined.
Fear springs from suspicion, for example, 'I might catch COVID-19', or 'that youmay already have it and might pass it on to me'. Another fear arises from the fact that COVID-19 is transmitted through differentroutes -sneezing and breathing, dirt and doorknobs, touching anything and anyone (human, animal and inanimate).
Fear and panic extend even to those who are best informed about the disease. Experienced health worker may turn hotand cold when they see their first COVID-19 patient. Associated closely with fear andsuspicion is pandemic of stigmatization. This can manifest as avoidance, segregation and abuse.
The distinctive psychosocial effect produced by pandemic COVID-19 can potentially result incollapse of conventional social order. All kinds of dissimilar but scarring effects occur: friends, family, neighbours, and strangers may be feared; the sick may be left uncared for; those felt to be carriers may be shunned or persecuted; those without the disease maynonetheless fear they have got it; fierce moral controversies may sweepacross a society.
Volatile intellectual state leads to the pandemic of explanation and moralization, and action. Some fundamental metaphysical questions also arise: how could the government have allowed COVID-19 to spread to our country? Who is to blame? What does the impact of the pandemic reveal about our society?
The furor of intellectual and moral controversy, inturn, is dramatically increased by the huge spate of control measures proposed to contain the disease. Many suggestions cut across and threaten conventional codes and practices. Trade and travel are disrupted, personal privacy and liberty are seriously invaded, and health education is enforced on matters.
Atone extreme, major threats may be handled with cool, sustained focus on the problem at hand, moving aside of manyother issues, sustained mobilization of programs, techniques and resources. At the other extreme, distinctive pandemic psychology in which waves of panic slash through both individuals and the body politic, disrupting everyday practices, undermining confidence in conventional authority, more intense panic and collapse follow.
Moreover, the effect of COVID-19 on the societal microprocesses is passed through the human possessionof language and availability of technology by rapidly, eveninstantly, transmitted across millions of people andfrom one society to another leading to wider spread of psychosocial pandemic.
The evidence so far accumulated on COVID-19 infection shows that smokers are 19 times more prone to infection than non-smokers. For anyone who already has a mission to change the world or some part of it, a pandemic offers a window of opportunity for psychosocial change. For example, antismoking initiative may highlight the potential risk of smoking in the prognosis of COVID-19 infection to reduce the habit of smoking among people.
Lessons so far learned from ongoing COVID-19 pandemic gives a hint that it will not only leave its footprint on the disease scenario, but will influence, possibly for a long time, the psychosocial trajectory. This is the time for the world leaders to come forward for joint effort in the containment of COVID-19 pandemic, and to rebuild and overcome the psychosocial after effects through all country inclusive durable contingency plans.
Rukhsana Shaheen, PhD is a retired Assistant Professor of Community Medicine