Social Stigma and COVID-19

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Groups of people sometimes suffer shameful social stigma, which could be linked to a common factor, such as their religious beliefs, appearance, or the spread of a disease or a certain characteristic among them; causing them to face marginalization, stereotyping, bullying, and discrimination.

Coronavirus and Negative Discrimination against Patients

The rules for applying a negative social stigma apply to the patients of COVID-19 caused by the new coronavirus. Such behavior arises from people’s ignorance about the disease, its causes, how it spreads, and the methods of prevention and treatment, as well as their fear of getting infected, or transmitting the illness to their family and friends. As a result, they blame a tangible source of infection: the patient; they condemn, turn away from, and isolate these patients in a defensive psychological attempt to avoid the disease, as if they were the source of the pandemic.

Most Vulnerable Groups to Social Stigma

The most vulnerable groups to negative and social discrimination are: some ethnic minorities of Asian descent, patients recovered from COVID-19 after being discharged from isolation, and medical and emergency healthcare workers. There are also other groups, such as: delivery workers, cashiers, farmers, and patients with symptoms similar to COVID-19, as coughing and sneezing. All these people have not escaped social isolation, discrimination, and stigmatization.

Who can spread the infection?

Every one on Earth, in fact, can spread the infection, and no race can spread COVID-19 more than any other. We should, thus, put an end to stigmas associated with patients of a certain country or race, or recovered patients who have already won their battles against the virus.

Impact of Stigma on Society

Stigmas are represented in a number of behaviors towards the aforementioned groups, including: social isolation and ostracism, one-sided interaction, deprivation of work, residence, learning spaces, or sports clubs, and could even develop into verbal or physical abuse.

Stigma results in extremely fearful and anxious personality patterns that suffer from psychological problems and disorders that could amount to depression. Fear of stigma may drive some people to hide their illness from others. They, accordingly, do not receive the appropriate care and treatment, continue to mingle with everyone, spreading the infection among community members who are in contact.

Watch this video on Coronavirus Stigma

The solution is to raise awareness about the causes of the disease, how it spreads, and the possible means of protection to prevent infection, in addition to emphasizing patients' acceptance and support psychologically and socially throughout their illness and after recovery, while following the rules of social distancing, and maintaining healthy habits of hygiene and hand washing. This is how societies can overcome such ordeals, without spreading fear or panic among their members.

References

theconversation.com

cdc.gov/coronavirus

who.int


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