Hello Dear readers, I hope you are doing well in these tough times. Sending all the love and prayers to every one of you. Today, we are going to touch a little bit upon mental health and authorities who have a powerful role in affecting it.
In light of the latest news in India regarding measures taken to fight COVID-19, some shocking situations are revealed. This is primarily centered on the migrant workers in India, such as, spraying or rather dousing the migrant workers with disinfectants who arrived in Bariley (BBC, 2020). While the rationale behind such drastic actions can be understood, the sheer action itself has jolted the migrant workers which have been subsequently vibrated through the citizens of the world who are sitting at home and looking at the pictures.
Probing a little more into this situation reveals how the migrant workers are in a state of absolute angst and desperation to go back home to their loved ones, so much so, that they are making journeys of more than 800 km with no money or food to reach back to their villages. For example, a migrant worker in Mumbai (South-Western part of India) walked for two days towards Rajasthan (North-Western part of India) in an attempt to reach his home, however, he had to return after 100-200 km after the police intervened to prevent the potential spread of the virus (Pasricha, 2020). This is the story of one worker among thousands who are alone, penniless and scared.
This is not a critical view of the government because that is not the intention behind this write-up and also we have to recognize that the government has asked local authorities to provide food and accommodation to the migrant workers and people under the poverty line in a $22 billion package, however, due to not having identity cards in the cities, access to this is a challenge.
The point that is jarringly becoming clear is that Indian authorities, or for that matter authorities, in general, need to consider the mental health of people they are dealing with. This does not mean taking out an hour and asking them about their problems and issues, but to have a sensitive and well-tuned approach in conversing, handling and reassuring the citizens.
This nuance is present in the everyday interaction with the authorities, which is often easily overlooked, but in the case of a major crisis, such as a pandemic which we are witnessing, this manner of interaction can make a world of a difference. To illustrate, in schools, there is a high fear of authority that is instilled from a young age, this translates to fear of getting scolded and humiliated by a teacher in class for one mistake, or the fear of making any mistake in school. Apart from school, there is a general insensitivity in conversation that people face in many public matters such as, simply filling a form, or dealing with authorities in general. This does not mean that people should be left scot-free when they make a mistake, it is fine to communicate to people the mistake they have done and what follows next in a neutral manner, but to use it as an opportunity to humiliate others and instill fear is a gradual breakdown of the mental health.
The aforementioned situations are a matter of everyday life, however, this insensitive approach to interaction comes to the forefront in the matter of a real crisis, where the need of the hour is to manage people and not let fear seize them up. Once fear enters and fests your mind, then other aspects of your mind such as rationality quickly lose its presence and finally people one by one descend into chaos. Realising this, the authorities now, more than ever, have to bring in a sensitive way of communicating what they are doing and why they are doing it. They have to reassure them and not scare them, this along with focusing on crisis management is important.
Mental health is not a topic of discussion that rests exclusively upon the psychologists and psychiatrists, in fact, if the structures of power and the citizens do their part in expressing compassion, then the effectiveness towards dealing with mental health becomes much more enhanced. This is an approach we all need to be mindful of in our day-to-day life, simple things like asking how someone’s day is, or if they are doing okay, or a smile can be a good start. The point is that, authorities often have a great deal of effect from early on in our lives and mind, i.e., schools to later on in life, i.e., the government as we rely on them for assurance for many integral aspects of our life. This holds now more than ever and a simple reassurance to the migrant workers and subsequent actions to facilitate them to go back home without scaring them with such drastic measures can be a saviour to them.
All of us wield a great deal of power in affecting each others’ mind, let us use this power responsibly.Tweet
BBC. “Coronavirus: Anger as migrants sprayed with disinfectant in India.” 31 March 2020. Web. 31 March 2020.
Pasricha, A. “Indian Migrant Workers Trudge Hundreds of Kilometers for COVID-19 Lockdowns.” Voice of America news. VoA, 28 March 2020. Web. 31 March 2020.
*Disclaimer: This is not a criticism of the government of India or any other forms of power, they are all doing a lot for our country in this difficult times and their priority is prevention of the spread of the virus. These views are only about one aspect of a larger situation in an attempt to continually do better together.