A man committed suicide even after his victory over Covid-19. Sadly, he had lost the war against the social stigma that the disease brings with it.
According to media reports, there has been a steep rise in the suicide rate following the pandemic, many of them caused by extreme stigmatisation by the community.
Social stigma arises from a lack of knowledge and facts. It is the association between a person who shares certain characteristics and a specific disease.
Such stigmas affect those with the disease psychologically, as well as their caregivers, family, friends and communities. Even people showing similar characteristics of Covid-19 are being stigmatised and are in great suffering.
One victim, who was continuously nagged by the press after his test showed he had the coronavirus, shared verbally, “I am tired with the social isolation and discrimination. I have suffered so much that I am thinking of taking this up in court for privacy data theft.”
Stigma can drive people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination and prevent people from seeking healthcare immediately.
Research has clearly shown the association between stigma and fear around infectious diseases and the affected response.
The primary causes for shame surrounding Covid-19 are related to the emergence of the new virus; many are unaware of its effects. The development of Covid-19 has created a state of confusion, anxiety and fear in the public. Empathetically such factors are contributing to harmful stereotypes, leadibg to a situation where the virus can take a massive form.
Furthermore, this is escalating health problems and proving difficulty in controlling the disease. In this time of public health crisis, the government, citizens, media, key influencers and communities have an essential role to play in preventing and stopping the stigma surrounding the disease in the country. The facts should be accessible to the general public.
According to research on the mental health status of health workers in Nepal, nearly half of the participants of the study expressed a high degree of corona-related fear. During the pandemic, it’s heart aching to see the warriors of the pandemic, the health professionals, being humiliated by the society denoting them “as the virus”.
We all need to be thoughtful when communicating on the social media and other communication platforms. What works is building trust in reliable health services and advice, demonstrating empathy with those affected, understanding the disease itself, and adopting effective, practical measures so that people can help keep themselves and their loved ones safe.