The Psychological Trauma of Mysterious Pandemic

(Abu Hassan, )

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 decision makers.

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 levels.

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 children.

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?

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