Promoting Psychosocial Measures in COVID19 Prevention Strategies
The pandemic of COVID19 that has stricken humanity nowadays is considered the biggest and the most challenging viral infection ever that the world has had. It has become almost a year since the first infection case was reported, and the society has yet to discover its antidote or any vaccine whatsoever. However, this is not the end of the world and the practice of curbing the pandemic infection so far has been focussing on educational aspect and creating awareness in the society. This practice has become the prevalent approach adopted since the beginning of the first infection case and that it has been carried out with the noble intention of getting peoples’ cooperation and commitment in managing the infection.
It is understood that such a pandemic is caused by a strain of virus known as SAR-CoV-2 and that it has a very high rate of infectivity and even fatal consequences. This has been the reason why preventive measures, along with the long awaiting upcoming vaccine, are very important in controlling the infection. However, for the time being, the preventive measures have been to adopt the most basic approach ever known to human beings and operating at the core of educational point of view. Believe it or not, this is what we understand as a psychosocial and behavioural perspective.
What is psychosocial then, and why do we adopt such an approach in dealing with the pandemic? The answer is simply that it is the most basic and closest kind of approach to human nature. In defining the nature of psychosocial construct, it has been conceptualised as anything that relates to the socio-psychological aspects or factors of human life that have some influence to how humans think and behave. Social factors are anything that are extrinsic, or outside of the human personality and character, whereas psychological is something intrinsic and dependant on human personality and character, but both interact interdependently and are interrelated to each other.
Dealing with the issues of the pandemic from the psychosocial perspective and approach are then understood as activating the power and capacity of human thinking and reasoning abilities and its behavioural consequences in curbing the infectivity of the virus. To understand this approach further, we try to relate ourselves with what we have been practising nowadays by socially and physically distancing ourselves from the crowds, always washing our hands and cover our mouths when coughing. These are examples of preventive behavioural consequences that become the basis of the psychosocial perspective. Another example is when the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W was giving some advice in relation to the pandemic situation as translated in a Hadith which means, ‘When you hear that a plague is in a land, do not go to it and if it occurs in a land that you are already in, then just stay on it (do not leave it, flee from it),’
In other words, we are actually capable of shielding and protecting ourselves from getting the virus when we train our thoughts and reasoning capacities to behaviourally contain the infection. Thus, for this purpose, how do we train our thoughts and reasoning faculty to be capable of getting rid of the virus, or how can our thoughts and behaviour make us so vulnerable to be infected?
Indeed, this is another analogy within the perspective of the psychosocial paradigm. It is believed that at the thinking or cognitive level, what we think directs us in what we do and what we feel, such as the saying goes we are what we think, and hence, we are what we eat. Our behaviour is a result of what we think and what we think determines how we behave subsequently. What happens to the high incidence or spike in COVID19 infection rate recently is absolutely attributable to the thinking or cognitive fallacies that humans have which is known as thinking or cognitive biases.
Thinking or cognitive bias is understood as some kind of systematic errors in thinking that humans adopt when interpreting and processing information that they receive from the world and the surroundings. It is a short cut thinking process in making decisions and judgements in life that consequently determines one’ behaviour. An example of cognitive bias is attention bias when one only pays attention to small portions of negativity and simultaneously ignoring the wide range of positivity that exists and then starts to overgeneralise with the conclusion that their full life has been destined to be catastrophic, rather than optimistic. The same principle also applies during the current pandemic situation when someone may hold a belief that COVID19 is only a viral infection, just like any other flu infection and therefore, they simply ignore any specific related safety measure that targets the new strain of virus.
In conclusion, the psychosocial perspective holds the belief that the COVID19 pandemic is actually about human psychological and behavioural accommodation process in dealing with the viral infection, and not merely about the illness or the virus itself. It is about how humans can use their faculty of reasoning and safety behaviour in managing the illness and containing the infection, because mental health is believed to be the next pandemic in relation to COVID19.