Superstar Amitabh Bachchan has been criticised for his superstitious social media posts since the coronavirus pandemic struck. But once in a while, he does put his phenomenal clout to good use too.
Since he tested positive for Covid-19 on 11 July, and was admitted to Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital, Bachchan has been sharing regular updates about his treatment, and most of them are on a positive note. But his blog post on 25 July drew attention to the harsh realities of being a Covid patient — isolation and its impact on mental health.
“The mental state sparks from the stark reality that the Covid patient, put in hospitalised isolation, never gets to see another human..for weeks,” he wrote.
This articulation of what it really means to be in ‘isolation’ is precisely what has been lacking in public discourse on coronavirus.
The constant use of the term ‘isolation wards’, whether by the media or in government briefings, has made it a clinical term, incomprehensible to most of us. Except for a few first person narratives, especially of high-profile figures like Bachchan.
But being devoid of human contact, or touch can be detrimental, as Bachchan points out, and to be battling a disease that has claimed the lives of more than 33,000 people in India alone, can be an extremely terrifying experience.
Also read: ‘Irresponsible, incorrigible lie’ — Amitabh Bachchan on report of him testing Covid negative
Covid and mental health
When the Covid-19 outbreak first swept over India in March, there was a lot of chatter about how the lockdown and anxiety around the pandemic would impact the country’s mental health. But the true impact of the virus on one’s mental health did not make itself known until much later. With fear, mistrust and stigma attached to testing positive, the toll on patients is severe.
It was only as late as 9 July that the Ministry of Health and Family welfare uploaded a comprehensive guide to taking care of one’s mental health in these times.
The earlier manual focused on the anxieties of being under lockdown, not the trauma of being a Covid patient, which Bachchan’s blog finally brought to the spotlight.
Also read: ‘Do I have Covid? Vaccine anytime soon?’ — 3.5 lakh distress calls at NIMHANS since March
A new form of racism
After already being plagued with racism and casteism, Covid-19 has unlocked a whole new form of discrimination in India. From ousting healthcare and airline professionals from their rented apartments, to clashes over home quarantine and isolation rules — Covid has truly brought out the worst in Indians.
The reason people don’t come forward despite suffering from severe symptoms is often this very stigma. This explains why some have taken the drastic step of dying by suicide, to save themselves from facing the harsh glare of stigma. Many don’t reveal their exact address to neighbours or health professionals, upon testing positive, for fear of being ostracised.
Also read: Instagram influencers with open DMs aren’t therapists. They should stop acting like one
Bachchan’s Covid initiative
In May this year, the government launched the ‘Break the stigma‘ campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan. Made by advertising agency Ogilvy India, the one minute-long film features Bachchan explaining to viewers that Covid-19 impacts a person both physically and mentally, especially when survivors are ostracised for no fault of theirs.
The reality is that when big names talk, people sit up and listen. With the Bachchans having been transparent about their Covid journey, a change might be possible.
Film writer Apurva Asrani also took to Twitter to point out that the Bachchans sharing the news of being Covid-19 positive would go a long way in destigmatising the virus for the rest of India.
It's great that Amitabh & Abhishek Bacchan have shared the news about being COVID positive. This, and their recovery should destigmatize an inevitable but mostly easy to beat virus.
— Apurva (@Apurvasrani) July 12, 2020
It, of course, goes without saying that with fame and privilege comes certain benefits, like better medical access, and the education and vocabulary to articulate the very idea.
But anything that could help break the stigma around Covid-19 right now only helps positive patients, their mental health, and their future integration into our society.
Views are personal.
I dont know who You are. What Your credentials are. Apparently no one knows You. Maybe You are destined to be a great Journalist. Maybe You will be just a nobody with nothing to show for Your life. BUT – You are no one to cast aspersions, make judgments on what ‘use’ Amitabh Bachchan puts his twitter clout to! Amitabh Bachchan is a 4 time national award winner and he is now 77 Yrs old. Show some respect towards him & his achievemnts.
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