The Stigma Is Real — Dr Kelvin Yii

By CodeBlue | 07 April 2020

Stigma may discourage people from stepping forward to test for Covid-19.

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I encourage fellow Malaysians to show empathy with the anxiety and stress felt by patients of Covid-19 and not stigmatise those who are confirmed to have the infection as this not only may be detrimental to the patient, but also may discourage more people from stepping forward to undergo health screening and testing due to fear of the stigma.

In view of the reported suicide case of a patient of Covid-19, it is important we as a nation respond in a loving and caring matter especially in a high-stress and unprecedented crisis such as this.

Stigma and even “spreader’s guilt” is a real painful issue that many patients have to deal with. The mental stress and anxiety suffered by patients due to the disease is not just limited to the worry of the effects of the virus to ones own health, but also how it possibly can spread and affect others as well.

I believe that no patient wants to get this disease, and definitely no one wants to spread this to another human life, especially if it leads to possible eventual death.

Imagine the anxiety and stress endured by patients when they get updates and reports of other cases that may be linked to them.

Being “tagged” as a super-spreader may also do more harm to the psyche of an individual and add unwarranted “guilt” even though it was beyond their control.

Some patients may even have to endure the pain known as “survivor’s guilt” when they themselves may have survived from the disease, while those around them did not.

We have seen the ugly effects of this, especially during post-war times, and thus we must be empathetic towards patients that may have went through such similar psychological trauma or “guilt”.

I really do not wish any of that “guilt” on anyone and, very often, this stigma is not only limited to the patients themselves, but also often directed towards their family and loved ones.

That is why we all need to learn to act in compassion and not to stigmatise the patients or survivors. Let us support them through this, and show empathy to them and their families. Blaming and accusing does not help, but only create more psychological damage.

This echoes the call made by the DG of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham, which recently urged Malaysians not to discriminate against those who attended a mass tabligh gathering, but rather help them to make sure they get the help needed.

So we all have a part to play in this crisis, and we can do it together through empathy and love so that our fellow Malaysians can heal and recover not just their physical health, but also supported in their mental health.

For those that are going through a tough time, there are many avenues you can seek including Helpline under Befrienders and also the Welfare Department.

Dr Kelvin Yii is Bandar Kuching Member of Parliament.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.
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