Social distancing is required to protect not only oneself but also our loved ones and society at large from Coronavirus. In fact, it is one of the few interventions that has been proven to help and break the cycle of transmission. It is not an easy thing to do! One begins to realize the full meaning of social distancing as time creeps on and specially if social distancing becomes social quarantine.
At first, one jokes about it- how much time we have to do all the things that we didn’t do in the house. Finally, we have time to watch the TV series which we wanted to watch on Netflix, the books that we wanted to read, the chores that had never gotten done, the closet which was a disaster zone can be reorganized a la Marie Kondo. A few days into it one looks wistfully at the door, we start missing the opportunity to go out, maybe even to the local grocery store, to meet friends, relatives, do sports, go to the bar, just breathe the air that other humans have breathed! Desperation can set in leading sometimes to a reckless disregard of the rules and denial of reality. One can easily barge out of the house into danger, putting not only ourselves but also our loved ones in danger,
The modern world is a very connected world, we are connected across nations by trade, travel, tourism and almost every minute by social media. The impact of Coronavirus has been to cut these links. Nations are in “lockdown”- travel is not possible, tourism is at a standstill, aircrafts idle in their hangars and cruise ships are marooned outside ports. This is fast resembling “Limbo”, Dante’s first circle of hell where people are deprived of all kinds of joy.
Human beings are social animals, in fact one of the most drastic forms of punishment is solitary imprisonment. It has a huge psychological impact on the person, even driving some to insanity. Relatedness and relating is one of the fundamental needs of any human being and being deprived of that can lead to profound consequences in the vulnerable, specially people whose relatives are not well or who themselves are not well.
It is particularly important at this time to use technology and prevent it’s abuse. We can easily fall victim to paranoia, helplessness and depression listening and watching to the endless stream of morbidity. It is important to utilize the same technology to empower people, to create and strengthen empathic connections between family, friends, community and nations.
Communication is mandatory for our well being and we can do so by:-
1. Call up our friends and relatives regularly. Use video wherever possible rather than just audio! People want to see each other even if they can’t touch or hug them!
2. Make various groups on social media like WhatsApp- school mates, friends, runners, colleagues or family groups for example. It is important to keep the groups positive and helpful and not let despondency creep in.
3. Keep communicating on community groups like Facebook, you never know when what you have learned or realized from your experience is useful to someone far away
4. Help those who have limited mobility because of physical reasons, old age or because they are quarantined. You can help by dropping of groceries or medicines at their door step or just checking in on them by the telephone! Every Crusoe needs a Man Friday!
5. Particularly keep in touch with those who live alone. A daily call is most helpful, they may be in bad help and need an ambulance to be called or just to hear another particularly empathic human being’s voice is a great relief.
Social distancing means physical distancing not emotional distancing. Let’s combat Coronavirus with “Karuna” (Compassion) Virus. This virus can only be killed with Empathy and Kindness across people, communities and nations.
[Dr. Anurag Mishra M.D.Psychiatrist, Chief Psychoanalytical Unit, Department of Mental Health & Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare
Dr. Samarth Singh, Interventional Neurologist, HOD Neurology, Vayodha Hospitals, Kathmandu, Nepal, [email protected]]