On December 31, 2019, China warned the World Health Organization (WHO) of a virus outbreak in Wuhan City. By January 30, 2020, the WHO had declared the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) a global health emergency.
News agencies around the world have reported the corona virus by sharing live updates and real-time maps with the number of infections and deaths around the world. In addition, experts have tried to publish open source articles and exchange important research results. This flood of negative news, online rumors about social media, and the increasing government response have alarmed the public psyche. In fact, fear and mass panic have spread quickly.
The Trauma and Mental Health Report (TMHR) spoke to people in the community about their reactions to the coronavirus outbreak. Elisa (name changed due to anonymity), a woman in her mid-forties, said:
“At first I wasn’t worried about what was happening at all. I laughed at and dismissed anxious people. I wasn’t worried during the SARS outbreak. But within a week, all my friends and family warned me; we all followed the daily headlines “It kept me awake at night. Even though we travel halfway around the world from China, concern about what is happening there is an everyday experience.”
Amelia (name changed), a retiree, canceled her travel plans due to the virus:
“I was planning a two-week cruise through Asia three months ago. Then the outbreak happened and the virus spread all over the world. My children were concerned about my safety on the return trip from Hong Kong. Finally, I became anxious. All countries that I wanted to visit had reported infected cases. In the end I canceled my trip. “
As the panic of the coronavirus spread, people began to hoard N95 masks and surgical masks in hopes of protecting themselves from the airborne transmission of the virus. John (name changed), a business manager in Hong Kong, said:
“The panic about buying masks and hoarding food was huge. Doctors and nurses are on strike and are calling on the government to close its borders with China. Everyone is nervous, the work ethic has been seriously affected. It felt like an impending fate was coming. ”
Similarly, Farah (name changed), a young mother and student, reported:
“I was so worried about the news; I could not concentrate on learning for my test and went online to buy masks for my children because I was worried that they would not continue at school. ”
Public health concerns can also make symptoms worse in people struggling with health anxiety. Nadia (name changed), a Russian-Canadian student, said:
“I had nightmares about the corona virus. I was a bit hostile to germs, now I’m afraid to touch something or go out and see someone. “
As with previous virus outbreaks, an increase in Chinese racism, xenophobia and stigma is spreading. Time Magazine called it “The Pandemic of Xenophobia and the Scapegoat”. In an interview with CBS News, Priscilla Wald, a professor at Duke University who studies public narratives about diseases and epidemics, explains:
“We get a headline like” Global Health Crisis “and everyone panics everywhere, although in most places no one has reason to panic … Every time we find ourselves in such a situation, we immediately go into panic mode, which is crisis mode all kinds of problems, including stigmatization of people [and] Racism…[Seeing] Photos of someone in a hazmat suit or [people] Wearing face masks immediately triggers this panic reaction. “
The comments on Reddit were an example of the increase in negative comments against the Chinese. “You only eat snakes and bats. You deserve the virus. “
Kevin (name changed) described his experience of racism on Reddit:
“I am Chinese and have experienced an increase in racism due to the corona virus. Commuters cover their faces when they are near me, although I am healthy and do not have to cough or sneeze. Because of my ethnicity, I feel like I’m part of a threatening and sick crowd. “
To combat mass panic and irrational behavior, free online resources are available to help people cope with their fears. Ali Mattu, a clinical psychologist who specializes in panic and anxiety disorders, has posted a video on YouTube that helps people deal with the anxiety caused by the outbreak. In it, he suggests that people limit media consumption, practice healthy habits, read credible sources of information, and stick to their normal routine. In addition, the University of California, Berkeley’s University Health Services, has given instructions on how to deal with fears and fears about coronaviruses, including taking things into account and taking our assumptions about others into account.
-Lotus Huyen Vu, contributing writer
Feature: Elchinator at Pixabay, Creative Commons
First: Free use of sounds at Unsplash, Creative Commons
Second: OpenClipart-Vectors / 27421 images at Pixabay, Creative Commons