Throughout the world there are 2.6 billion people (one third of the global population) in some form of lockdown or quarantine. What does this mean for us as human beings who are socially wired, what might be the impact of these extraordinary measures and what can we expect after this is over?
Last week I wrote about the stages we will likely experience during this time but our progression through those mental stages will depend on where you are and who you are. If you are with close family in your comfortable house and your main issue is that you are bored out of your mind and have run out of booze…your experience is one thing whilst if you are stuck in a poky flat on your own with your salary cut and worried about how to pay your bills at the end of the month and if you’ll be retrenched thereafter – you are likely having a quite different experience.
And it will be the same with regards mental resilience. Some people may take this change in their stride, for others social distancing, government control and loss of routine and life as they know it may be the catalyst for a downward spiral in their mental health.
Some people may feel they should not be locked down and so feel anger and resentment. In neighbouring South Africa, where only 58 people have died, hundreds of thousands of people are facing severe economic hardships and as a result are arguing the merits of being decimated by hunger and poverty rather than the disease.
Which is the lesser of those two evils? Criticism is high, emotions too and if you are government you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t; – if you move too late you cause a lot of people to die but too early then you are criticized for being gung-ho. Overkill when your aim was under-kill!
Cognisant of the difference in people’s reactions and experience, I did a straw poll with some staff this week to measure how they feel about the lockdown and if there were any positive spinoffs. Most people only managed to coax out one good outcome and even that was a struggle.
It was clear to me that people were losing more than they were gaining: people used to immersing themselves in the busy-ness of work feel lost; those who rely on the structure of religion and its disciplines feel unanchored; those that use exercise as a mechanism for coping are struggling; family members are in each other’s face and on each other’s nerves etc..
Most miss the office environment and camaraderie. Some feel isolated and find it difficult to work from their dining room table. Others struggle with the self-discipline required or with tech-based meetings and feel uncomfortable with them, even worried about the security and who might be listening in.
The sheer ease of leaning over to connect and speak to a colleague , eye to eye contact and communicating by body language clearly cannot be replicated from home as many people start to appreciate the validation received day in and day out from co-workers. It feels like the novelty of the challenge and the excitement of change (if it was even there at the beginning) has worn off and what is left is reality – “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
The World Economic Forum recently published an article by Dr Elke Van Hoof, a Professor of health psychology and primary care psychology at the Vrije University in Brussels, entitled ‘Lockdown is the world’s biggest psychological experiment – and we will pay the price’.
The article reported that just before the world went into lockdown The Lancet published a review of 24 studies documenting the psychological impact of quarantine (“restriction of movement of people who have potentially been exposed to a contagious disease”). ‘The review’s finding’, it said, ‘offered a glimpse of what is brewing in hundreds of millions of households around the world.
People who are quarantined are very likely to develop a range of symptoms of psychological stress and disorder, including low mood, insomnia, stress, anxiety, anger, irritability, emotional exhaustion, depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms’. ‘Low mood and irritability specifically stand out as being very common’, the study notes.
In China, which it could be said has been there, done that, these expected mental health effects are already being reported in the first research papers about the lockdown. In cases where parents were quarantined with children, the mental health toll became even steeper. In one study, no less than 28% of quarantined parents warranted a diagnosis of “trauma-related mental health disorder”. In severe instances, reactions may even be likened to PTSD.
Of course, we still have a way to go with confinement and will only know what effect all of this will have in the future but it’s good to be aware that what you are experiencing may make you vulnerable and to understand and accept that what is happening is real. Drawing on what we know about psychological care following disasters and let’s face it this is one, there are some recommended guidelines, a few of which HR managers should be thinking about:
Make sure self-help interventions are in place that can address the needs of large affected populations.
Educate people about the expected psychological impact and reactions to trauma if they are interested in receiving it. Make sure people understand that a psychological reaction is normal.
Launch a specific website to address psychosocial issues.
Make sure that people with acute issues can find the help that they need
The bottom line is that sooner or later restrictions will be lifted but the psychological impact will undoubtedly linger for some considerable time, as will the very real personal financial implications. It’s fair to say that whilst most people will not catch the disease, the after-effects and slow recovery will be experienced by almost everyone. It’s a phrase I’m hearing more and more often and all too true – that the cure may ultimately prove worse than the disease.
In China, which it could be said has been there, done that, these expected mental health effects are already being reported in the first research papers about the lockdown. In cases where parents were quarantined with children, the mental health toll became even steeper. In one study, no less than 28% of quarantined parents warranted a diagnosis of “trauma-related mental health disorder”. In severe instances, reactions may even be likened to PTSD .
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.
It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.