As I condemn Covid-shaming, I should clarify that I don’t think that anyone should necessarily get a “pass” for reckless behavior; safety guidelines are important and one of the ways we can limit the spread of a dangerous virus. However, it is troubling that so much of Philippine's response to Covid-19 has been rooted in personal responsibility and individual action, relying on each of us to be on our best behavior.

Believe it or not, scolding other people or shaming them for their COVID-19 diagnosis is a natural response. Not surprisingly, people are worried about their safety and the safety of their loved ones. When someone gets diagnosed with the coronavirus, others may shame them out of a deeply-rooted fear of what that new diagnosis might mean.

The recent spread of COVID-19 may have dramatic consequences for mental health. As the present pandemic may imply an exposure to death or threatened death or serious physical injury, this situation involves a prolonged alert condition that can have significant psychological consequences on several levels.

Besides the constant fear of being infected, other negative emotions may represent a serious issue for mental health. Shame and guilt are two distinct negative self-conscious emotions that can be triggered by the present pandemic.

After over a year of living in various stages of lockdown and reopening, it has become clear that the pandemic has led us to rely heavily upon performative gestures which do little in the way of prevention.

Out of fear of public shaming, many people have taken pains to hide their less careful activities from their social media feeds, but the effects of their actions still exist.

Many people feel it is their responsibility to correct and educate others, especially with regard to the coronavirus. After all, they are convinced that the latest information they found on social media is the ultimate authority and they need to correct anyone who disagrees with their beliefs.

Clearly, we need to be more concerned with substance than appearance, but a culture of shaming points us in the wrong direction. It seems that many Covid-shamers enjoy affirming their own goodness and decency by distancing themselves from rule-breakers, but this performance has no real benefits for anybody else. If the last 14 months have taught us anything, Covid-shaming fails to actually stop people from acting irresponsibly. Shaming others teaches them to avoid being truthful when they do make mistakes. Instead of avoiding social gatherings, many people have simply stopped posting about them. After over a year of Covid-shaming, it’s clear that it’s not working.

In the meantime, instead of engaging with others and determining what a friend or family member might need while they recover from the illness, people are resorting to shaming behavior or re-sharing screenshots as a way to achieve their desired results.

When people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, it's natural to be both fearful and anxious about what diagnosis will mean for them. They may worry if they will experience some of the unfortunate side effects and complications that the illness can cause. But they also may wrestle with other fears, too, like the fear of being shamed, shunned, or ostracized because they contracted the virus.

As a result, doctors are finding that many people are keeping their diagnosis a secret out of fear of how others will respond or treat them. Even if they did everything right, there will be those who blame them for getting sick and assume that they did something wrong. And this stigma and discrimination—especially while they are ill—can be devastating.

Likewise, people diagnosed with COVID-19 may struggle with guilt, especially if there is a chance that they infected other people too. They may also experience self-shame over their diagnosis even if no one has directly shamed them.

So where do we go from here? Learn more about what the root causes of shaming others are, so we can all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 while supporting and respecting others.

Everyone has a responsibility to do their part when it comes to reducing the spread of the coronavirus, which includes wearing a mask, social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces. But people also have a responsibility to treat their fellow humans with respect.

Shaming people for a COVID-19 diagnosis doesn't help anyone. In fact, it drives people to stay silent about their diagnosis and when that happens, the coronavirus spreads, treatment is delayed, and prevention efforts are hindered.

Instead of blaming or criticizing someone, ask how you can help. Offer to run errands or drop off supplies and food. The better we treat our fellow humans, the more likely we are to come through this pandemic stronger and better than ever.

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