Stop social stigma

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The COVID-19 pandemic is unleashing problem af ter problem – not just at the level of healthcare, the problems are multifaceted. The effects on economy are now the talk of the town; there are problem for the global order in future, is also a beaten topic. But here we have another kind of a problem that needs timely attention. Those who have suffered an attack by this virus and have recovered after undergoing the necessary medical processes are now facing a very tough mental challenge. This comes from the fact that people around them, in their vicinity, colony or villages, have started looking at them as a kind of danger that needs to be kept at bay. It is not just those who have recovered, but even those who were quarantined as precautionary measures are being stigmatized, as was revealed in a Team Dimapur meeting of all districts nodal officers of Nagaland on July 1 here. In the meeting, some nodal officers had revealed problems faced by some returnees who are not being allowed to stay in some colonies at Dimapur after completing their quarantine period. This is no less than a trauma for these people who have already been through much. What could have been a moment of joy for them and their families is now turning into a shadow of lingered trouble. They needed the support of the people around them, so that they could come over the difficult memories. But here the reverse of it is happening. Understandably, any unknown and unexpected calamity like the corona pandemic is likely to be carrying a heavy load of fear. The chain reaction triggered by fear psychosis propels rumour mongering so rampantly that the ripple effects are experienced by people immediately. An infected person all of a sudden becomes stereotyped. Suspecting and blaming them and then virally unleashing a shameful social media campaign is not only derogatory but extremely dangerous. Instances of stigmatized violence and offences have brought voluminous amount of shame and criticism that was highly embarrassing. Unfortunate incidents of healthcare professionals being harassed and heckled with abuse and brute violence were highly disturbing and discouraging. The ugly manifestations of social stigma are metamorphosing and currently the recovered patients or quarantined people are bearing the brunt for no fault of their own. Being successfully treated and then tested properly, the recovered patients back home find themselves distanced and discriminated. Some are not allowed to even enter their village/colony/wards, etc. Even those who complete their quarantine are not being spared from the wrath of social stigma. Ordinarily a patient recovering from any ailment deserves unconditional care and assistance to recuperate well and return to normal living. Contrary to this humane and empathetic consideration, stigmatization of recovered patients with discriminatory and disrespectful treatment speaks volumes about our immaturity and ignorance. We must understand that the recovered COVID-19 person has not committed any crime, is not guilty of any wrong behaviour, and doesn’t pose any threat to anyone, anymore. Why then should they be stigmatized? The problem is with wrong understanding of the disease, and also a result of misinformation. We need to understand that once a patient has recovered he is like any other normal person. The medical experts tell us that no infection can travel from a recovered person. If that is the case we should not exhibit a behaviour that cause hurt to these patients, and also brings lots of mental ache to these families. At a time when the world community is struggling to find vaccine for the corona virus, the need of the hour is to shun stupidity and dissociate and distance from all forms of misconstrued and misleading notions. In this, it is appreciable that the Mokokchung Town Lanur Telongjem (MTLT), in the wake of the detection of the first COVID-19 positive case in the district, has made a strong appeal not to stigmatize or discriminate COVID-19 patients, the suspected cases or their immediate family members or community. “If there is a time that calls for standing together in the name of humanity, then the time is now. Stigma and discrimination will ensure a human tragedy where we will be left bereft of our own humane traits of love and compassion,” the MTLT said while appealing all to do away with social stigma on our own brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, fathers and mothers. It is time to break the chain of stigmatization once and for all and ensure everyone has a right to live with dignity.