Please Don’t Stigmatize

Editor,

To stigmatize, is to unfairly disapprove of, or discriminate against people based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. Why do people stigmatize? Stigma stems out of ignorance or lack of awareness. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. People assume that because someone has an illness he or she is different in a certain way and has to be avoided. Stigma may affect the behavior of those who are stigmatized. Those who are stereotyped often start to act in ways that their stigmatizers expect of them. It not only changes their behavior, but it also shapes their emotions and beliefs. Those stigmatized, often face prejudice that leads to low self-esteem, can cause depression and sometimes even lead to ending one’s life.

Stigmatization is a major hindrance and the reason why most people who are suffering from a particular ailment or disease, shy away and don’t come out with it in the open and seek help. These people quietly suffer and the disease progresses, ultimately leading to the person’s death.

In fact any disease or medical condition, that falls under the category of “stigma”, be it Mental illness, Physical illness or Psychological illness leading to substance abuse like alcoholism and drug addiction etc can be checked, arrested and even cured if detected at the initial stages  and timely help is sought. However, the sufferer is afraid to talk about his or her problem and to come out in the open for the fear of being stigmatized. Even the families of such people refrain from seeking help for the person who is suffering and try to keep the whole thing under wraps.

Most recently, during this Covid19 pandemic those unfortunates who have been infected by the virus and their family members have become victims of stigmatization. It is true that this is an unknown virus which is highly contagious and no cure has been found yet. However, as society has begun to stigmatize those infected to the extent of even stigmatizing people from the locality of those infected, people are afraid to get themselves checked or tested, even when they feel they may have the symptoms. This could lead to further spread of the virus and reach proportions that may at a stage become difficult to curtail.

The society needs to be educated and made aware of the safety protocols that need to be followed and the precautions to be taken. As with so many other s0-called fatal diseases, even this can be cured if the symptoms are detected and the patient is treated early as is proven, from official records that show the recovery rate is steadily increasing. This fear of stigmatization, however, can cause a person to refrain from seeking help until it is too late, and in the process infect other people.

We as a society need to show compassion and understanding towards those infected or suspected to be infected, take necessary precautions as per the guidelines issued by the Government, but not treat those infected as outcasts. Instead we should try to help them and their families during the period of treatment or quarantine, any which way we can. Remember today it’s happening to them… tomorrow (God forbid) this could happen to us too.

Yours etc.,:

Vicky Vadera,

Shillong -3

Media must apologize

Editor,

As part of an effort to refute the recent ‘paranormal activity’ video at Umtrew village aired by Meghalaya-based news channels viz. Batesi TV, Ri Bhoi News, Ïit Khmih and RiKhasi Channel, I write concerning the misleading story apropos the letter ‘The Fake News Contagion’, (ST July 31, 2020). Demand is hereby made that editors and publishers of the above-mentioned news channels/media outlets, immediately and prominently correct and apologize for the aforementioned false and misleading story. Failure to do so will leave viewers and audiences with no alternative but to consider legal options which could include immediate legal proceedings against all the above channels. This is one of the reasons that a majority of Meghalayans have lost trust in the media. Instead of applying ethics and standards to their reporting, journalists have used it to mislead the people with little or no regard for the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994. Even if tempered with an ‘if true’ caution, there still needs to be a solid basis for believing it is true. Otherwise, pure speculation takes the place of news reporting.

Meghalaya-based news channels have a long history of running with unverified claims. Such an apology is due not only to Meghalayans, but also to the vast majority of viewers across the country, who — amid a pandemic — have expressed support for the demand on social media.

Yours etc,

Wandashisha Laloo

Shillong – 6

On Containment zones in Malki localities

Editor,

Apropos the news report “Containment zones in Malki locality” (ST July 29, 2020), I am pained to see the names of 13 residents of Malki who had been categorized as “detection of positive COVID-19 cases/high risk contacts”. My question here to those who revealed the names is, “Have the 13 people been tested COVID-19 positive?” To my understanding, since this pandemic is a global issue, revealing the names of people, infected streets and lanes in Malki by representatives from the locality through the newspaper without seeking proper consent and confirmation or obtaining test report proofs of all 13 residents is an act of bringing dishonour, tarnishing the image of families, hurting sentiments of residents, stigmatizing and creating a fear-psychosis in the neighbourhood. To cause further mental and physical harm to somebody who is already suffering is a grievous sin. The need of the hour for the Dorbar Dong, Dorbar Shnong or representatives in these times of distress is to help the weaker sections who are the poor and the needy, to facilitate immediate testing drives, set up of quarantine centres to instill a sense of courage, love, hope (Covid-19 is curable  disease), and to make people aware so that they strictly follow protocols as laid down by the Government to safeguard against the spread of this disease. Sealing of houses and lanes of the so called infected zones/containment zones without seeking proper instructions and directions from authorities of the Health Department will create further confusion in the minds of the people.

As the entire human race is passing through tough times where the pandemic is spreading like wildfire, let people stand united, be supportive of one another, be more empathetic and let the sense of brotherhood prevail.

Yours etc.,

Name withheld on request

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