Supporting Each Other
While we re-adjust to being back in Adelaide or simply back on campus, we have some really important choices to make about how we treat each other.
It’s normal to feel nervous or worried but if those feelings lead us to judge or stigmatise others, it can be really detrimental to wellbeing and create a toxic vibe. As we find ways to live with COVID in the community, here are some situations we might want to face with compassion and kindness.
Tips on how to…
Handle tricky convos on topics like vaccintation
As hard as it can be, try to remain curious as this can help us step back from unhelpful judgements. There may be very valid reasons why someone is unable to have a vaccination. Many medical conditions are invisible and we don’t have a right to question someone about their situation. We do however have the right to make our own decisions including whether we get vaccinated, follow health advice around hand-washing and mask wearing or abide by check-in requirements.
The key to any tricky conversation is respect and perspective. Can we see the situation from the other person’s point of view? We don’t have to agree with them but we can show respect and try to listen. If the relationship you have with the person means you can get into a deeper conversation, have a look at this great resource from the Red Cross.
Call out stigma
Social stigma means being treated differently, judged or discriminated against because of a perceived connection to an illness, in this case, COVID-19. People may say things or behave in ways that convey blame or shame. COVID has also been connected with more racial stigma. If we look at how things are represented in the media, fear is associated with “others” and feeds toxic stereotypes that drive us apart rather than bring us together as a community.
Stigma can stop people asking for the help they need, lead to poorer mental health and in lots of ways, slow recovery. It can also push people to hide symptoms to avoid discrimination. We may fear losing wages, being ignored by friends or ostracised by our community. These are situations none of us want to face.
How can we deal with it?
- Language counts – There are millions of words in our languages and their subtle differences can either drive or challenge stigma. Try to talk about someone who “has” COVID, is “getting treatment” for COVID or has “contracted” COVID. This helps build empathy and care for people. Don’t say “COVID victims” or someone “spreading COVID”. Using words that assign blame or dehumanise people increases fear and drives stigma.
- Share facts – There is lots of misinformation around so avoid perpetuating it. That means fact checking info, calling people out on misconceptions, and focusing on the evidence based information we have at our disposal. In South Australia, SA Health should be your first stop.
- Take control – when we focus on the unknown, we can often feel paralysed with fear. When we focus on the fear, it doesn’t go away but in fact is more likely to stick around for longer periods leaving our bodies and immune systems stressed. Instead, taking control of the things we can do to reduce our risk of contracting COVID helps propel us into fear reducing actions. Things like washing hands, wearing masks and getting vaccinated. For some further info, check out Reach Out.
The World Health Organisation have a full guide to dealing with COVID stigma.
Support a friend who contracts COVID
If you, a friend or someone you know contracts COVID, it can feel frightening but we can be of huge support to each other.
- Get in touch – ring them or message them. Find out how they are. Being at home in isolation can make people feel lonely or stressed. Hearing a friendly voice can really help.
- Ask how you can help – It might be buying groceries and leaving them on the doorstep, or connecting virtually to exercise, chat or play games together. We often worry about being a burden to others so if your friend doesn’t know how to ask for help, make a suggestion. “Can I bring you some (food, books, magazines)?” Being specific might help take the worry out of asking.
- Chat about more than COVID – our friend or family member has more to talk about than being sick. Focusing on being unwell narrows our perception leaving us feeling anxious or scared. It’s great to think big and broaden our conversations to other topics like movies, books, music or any other interests you share. It’s also important to take the time to listen. If they are feeling down, let them know it’s OK and you are there to support them whatever they’re feeling.
- Help them make a routine – it might include a regular catch up by video or phone, exercising together online or encouraging them to make time for reading, crafts or games if they feel well enough.
- Check the essentials – if people have medication they need to collect but can’t, this might be something you can do for them. Pets might also need walking. Checking restrictions and how to do this COVID safely is worth checking first.
For more info, check out
Reduce the “freak out” factor
Whether you contract COVID or not, worrying about the possibility doesn’t help. What can be helpful is thinking concretely about how we would cope in this situation and what actions we would take. If this is challenging then consider talking to friends, family or a professional. Changing “what if I get sick” into “then what actions can I take” can be a powerful way of reducing anxiety even for difficult situations.
For more info, check out these resources:
If you want to reach out for support, here are some services that can help
- Beyond Blue - phone and web chat services alongside some great online forums around this topic
- Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
- Mensline Australia – 1300 78 99 78
- Reach out
- Mindspot – telephone line 1800 61 44 34