As much as I have personally enjoyed the lockdown and the lessons it has taught me, I must sadly admit that this period of our lives, has unfolded certain things, it has unmasked some people and we have been exposed to their behaviour. On more than one occasion, I have noticed that there certainly is a COVID-19 social stigma.
Sometimes you see a person’s true character in times of stress. We observe or are exposed to how they deal with fear and uncertainty. Some of us are dealing with the new normal relatively well, whilst others are not. We are after all human beings and we are all different. Yet, with these differences, we are all faced with the same challenge. This strain of the virus is new, there is so much unknown about it. It’s therefore human nature to fear the unknown.
Confusion and anxiety levels are on the rise and it is sadly causing fear mongering. There is a COVID-19 social stigma, you may want to deny it but it exists.
Implications of COVID-19 Social Stigma
Let’s take a step back and look at the definition of SOCIAL STIGMA, as defined on Wikipedia:
Social stigma is the disapproval of, or discrimination against, a person based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. Social stigmas are commonly related to culture, gender, race, intelligence, and health.
In this instance, the COVID-19 social stigma could make people with the virus feel labelled, stereotyped or discriminated against. As a result, they may fear getting tested, if they have symptoms. They may try to hide the fact if they are tested positive, in fear of them or their families being discriminated against. This could result in them not having the proper care that they should have as they try to “hide” their status from others.
An example of labeling is to refer to the virus as the “Wuhan” virus. This is discriminatory. We do not need nor will get any positive results from stereotyping any group of people. The virus itself does not discriminate. Anyone, any age, any colour or ethnic origin may be presumptive for COVID-19.
I am not sure if you are aware, but if not, the acronym COVID-19 stands for Corona (the Co), Virus (the Vi) and Disease (the D) and the 19 because of the year of the emergence of the virus was 2019.
On social media, often on comments of news articles, I have seen the following groups discriminated against:
- People who are of Asian decent -this was more predominant in the early stages before the virus hit South African shores
- People from a certain province – initially when Gauteng was the epi-centre – I now see a similar trend regarding the current status of the Western Cape
- People who travelled
- Essential Services workers
- People in quarantine or who have been quarantined
- People who acquired the virus, including their friends and family
How the COVID-19 Social Stigma may affect individuals
- They may feel shunned, embarrassed and anxious
- They may isolate themselves or may feel left out of social circles (online at this stage)
- They may not get the medical help they need, as a result of the discrimination
- They could feel or become targets of abuse, in more than one way
- They may be “boxed” and this may prevent them from a variety of opportunities
What you can do to help break the COVID-19 social stigma
- Show solidarity – support essential service workers – recognise and appreciate them through social media posts
- Facts, not fear will stop the stigma. Educated and informed opinions will dispel harmful stereotyping. If you are not sure if something is a fact, do not share.
- Reach out to those who may feel or be stigmatised
- When you come across false statements regarding COVID-19, correct where possible and/or report it to the relevant authority
Imagine if you are tested positive for COVID-19:
Would you like it if people asked where you got it from? Or if they made comments or suggestions which insinuate that you were not careful enough? What if they told you that you have now put the rest of the family, community or office at risk? What if they made you feel as if you went there out there to get the virus?
As this has now hit home for many of us, with that stage of “being someone you know” – let’s encourage and support each other. Let’s educate those who do not have all the facts. Let’s stand together whilst apart – to be a voice of hope, a voice of courage. Nobody asked to test positive, it happened. It could happen to you or to me tomorrow. We could possibly have it now and not even know it.
COVID-19 is not selective. It does not discriminate. We have seen celebrities, politicians and people from all walks of life, be infected. This is a time where we have to stand together. There has never been a more important time to speak out. Break that stigma. The COVID-19 Social stigma.
As someone who sees myself as a social media inspirer, I could not sit back and not say anything. This is a platform to express my views and opinions and I hope that with this particular post, you will take a step back, reflect on your reaction and make the necessary mindset adjustments as required. Don’t feel bad if you’ve said something discriminatory – learn from it and don’t do it again. We can’t change what’s already been said and done but we can change how we will respond going forward.
My fellow friends, family, colleagues, readers and community online, we are over the 200k mark here in South Africa, with those who have tested positive. From this stage on, it’s going to get worse, a lot worse. Together, we need to be strong, we need to be supportive and we need to do all we can to remember that we are all human beings and we must treat each other as such. Contracting COVID-19 should not make anyone feel inhumane. The person is not a virus. Remember that.
Also, avoid discriminating places -the cruise ship, or the shop or the school or restaurant – it could happen to anyone and to any place.
Your friends, family and colleagues will need you now more than even if they test positive, here’s some ways to help and to break the COVID-19 Social Stigma:
- Connect and communicate on social media
- Check up with a phone call/instant message
- Where more communication is necessary, do a video call
- Drop off groceries at the doorstep
- Drop off a cooked meal at the doorstep
- Have medical supply or groceries delivered
- Ask what you can do to help
- Correct people who make assumptions or spread incorrect information
The COVID-19 social stigma can and will affect mental health if we allow it to. Let’s come together to build each other and to fight this. Somewhere in there, we want to make a sarcastic joke or comment, but let’s choose not to. Let’s spread positive vibes.