During the COVID-19 pandemic, a common refrain from New Zealand’s Director-General of Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, has been that “the virus is the problem, not people.” In New Zealand’s regular press conference updates, this point is reinforced, evidently to stop discrimination or bullying against those confirmed as infected with the virus.
Apparently, this hasn’t just been a problem in this country, however. Choi and Cho (2021) here explain how people who infected with COVID-19 can experience the stigma of negative social attitudes. They examined explicit and implicit attitudes and discovered that participants’ implicit attitudes toward people with COVID-19 were significantly negative, even though their explicit attitudes were generally positive. The authors explain how this inconsistency between explicit and implicit attitudes can be the source of mental discomfort and discrimination toward a target person or group.
As a society, most of us would agree on the need to root out discrimination and other negative social behaviors. How much more so in a pandemic when the stigma around COVID infection could cause people to hide symptoms, or not come forward to be tested. It could undermine community efforts to contain the virus and impede a return to a more ‘normal’ way of life.
The authors strongly recommend community-based mental health services and intervention to reduce the stigma experienced by those with COVID-19, for the advantage of all in the community, and so that those affected by the virus do not also face mental health issues of anxiety and trauma even after their physical symptoms resolve.
Alex Cheyne | Managing Editor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal