The Psychological Trauma of Mysterious Pandemic
Corona Tells We Aren’t Individuals
By Aqeel Malik
The onset of year 2020 witnessed implementation of ‘Corona World Order’
manifested with social distancing, isolations, quarantines and massive
lockdowns. COVID-19, characterized by unique and devastating levels of stress
and anxieties, has so far putup an unattainable challenge to the contemporary
medical science. Available data reveals that around one out of every six people
who contract COVID-19 becomes seriously ill; whereas the psychological impact of
the pandemic is much more colossal as it evenly affects beyond borders and
without any discrimination.It is rather more distressing for the non-affected
populace. Consequently, it must always remain on the top priority of the
Doctors and paramedics confronting the pandemic on frontline are firstvictim of
this catastrophic strain. As one doctor told the BBC,“the stress was
intense;seeing people die is not the issue. We’re trained to deal with deaths.
The issue is giving up on people we wouldn’t normally give up on.”Arthur
Marksman, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of
Texas, Austin, says: “Few people in healthcare have had real-life experience
with triage in which a significant number of life-and-death decisions had to be
made because of equipment shortages. That increases the chances that they may
experience moral injury as a result of their jobs”. Such exceptional scenarios
may lead to haunting states of inner conflict and turmoil particularly for
paramedics facing the Covid-19 outbreak on the frontlines.
The infotainment media on the other hand shapes the environment that further
amplifies horrification of the disease hence acts as a force multiplier under
obtaining environment. A number of conspiracy theories, fake news, rumours and
disinformation surrounding the pandemic are scaremongering and aggravating the
agony of already distressed people. Some people obsess about it which can result
in mental saturation and overload. Anxiety levels begin to rise with the
uncertainty of it all.
Pakistan, a country of over 220 million people, with Human Development Index (HDI)
of 0.562, one of the lowest in the world and about 25% of the population living
below poverty line, also announced a partial lockdown since 22 March 2020 after
countrywide outbreak of the disease. The pandemic is already fast draining the
global and national economies and has imposed a harsh reality of bereavement,
ailment and unemployment across the globe.Prolong exposure to lockdowns; social
distancing and quarantines may render the world populace to complex
psychological disorders including emotional disturbance, depression, stress, low
mood, irritability, avoidance, fear, insomnia along with post-traumatic stress
symptoms. The society may also become more selfish while already existing
religious, social, ethnic and political prejudices may aggravate to devastating
The world we live in today may appear entirely different in post COVID-19
scenario where psychological wellbeing of mentally fatigued communities with
minimal hope, feeble conviction and damaged belief systems would be the real
tough task. Post Traumatic Growth, therefore, must be realized through a strong
sense of meaning and purpose for overcoming major life events.We need to
understand that coronavirus is a stark reminder by the Creator that we are not
individuals. We are interlinked, interconnected and dependent on each other.
Empathy and care must be shown particularly for the vulnerable populations.
We need to be concerned, not panicked. Preventative rather than reactionary
measures have to be implemented. A more stringent, focused and uniformed
approach both at conceptual and functional levels is therefore the way forward.
Beside provision of outright empathetic support, it is imperative that health
professionals on the frontlines must be trained on stress management, to
mitigate the fallout. Uninterrupted supply chains of basic needs must be ensured
with conservation and reallocation plans particularly during lockdowns; while
ensuring dignity and honour of the people. The concept of telemedicine is
required to be evolved with availability of doctors and psychiatrists at a
single click for immediate medical and mental healthcare. We may also be a
little more cautious in discussing the pandemic related issues in front of
To curb panic, people need to feel a sense of control. Rather than saturating
themselves in updates excessively, ring fence media exposure to certain times in
the day. Sense must also be promoted amongst the masses to obtain information
from reliable sources only to curb the tendency of rumours and fake news.
Audience-specific “objective infotainment” broadcast is to be carried out to
entertain and keep their aesthetics intact. Public health officials must be
encouraged to provide rapid, clear messages delivered effectively for the entire
affected population for accurate understanding of the situation.
Psychological wellbeing in post COVID-19 scenario with society at large showing
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) would, therefore, be a challenge much
larger than the pandemic itself. Cohesion, integration and harmonization are the
prescription. But are we capable of this sustainable behavioural change?