By Annan Boodram
Vitriolic debates, some of which degenerate into insults and name-calling, rage on social media, with respect to covid-19 vaccine hesitancy and rejection. But, as a Trinidad and Tobago-based member of The Caribbean Voice pointed out, recently, those, who make and implement policies, really need to listen to those, who have issues with the vaccine, and recognize that a lot of it, including the fears, have to do with mental health.
Fears are often based on personal issues, such as individuals being allergic to certain medications or suffering from certain illnesses. Fears can lead to panic attacks and paranoia. As well, vaccine compulsion often leads to anxiety, depression, and peri-traumatic distress, as individuals fear serious physical reactions and even death.
These fears need to be allayed and language becomes critical in this process, as any mental health practitioner would know. Thus, mental health issues have to be addressed, as a prerequisite, to these persons becoming amenable to vaccines.
And, until fears are allayed and mental health issues addressed, until hesitant persons are assured that either they have absolutely nothing to fear or that their allergies and medical issues will be addressed in any vaccine regimen, vaccine mandates will only make matters worse.
An August 5 article on the CNN website, stated: “There’s a well-documented phenomenon in psychology called the ‘backfire effect’. Giving people facts disproving their incorrect beliefs can actually reinforce those beliefs. Researchers have observed this phenomenon in the context of political misconceptions, voting preferences, the and whether to get a flu vaccine oneself. The more people are confronted with facts at odds with their opinions, the stronger they cling to those opinions.
“And if arguing with facts backfires, you know what backfires even more? Criticizing, blaming and shaming them for being thoughtless, selfish, stupid, ignorant or psychopathic. You can check this yourself: When was the last time you changed your behavior in response to someone blaming or shaming you?”
Thus, instead of engaging in debates to nowhere that compound the animosity and disconnect, displaying empathy and curiosity would be the way to go. Walk in the shoes of those, who refuse the vaccine, understand their perspectives, then seek to create an environment that makes them feel safe and affirmed.
Perhaps too, it would be better for those, who have taken the vaccine, to share their reasons for doing so. For in that sharing, other hitherto hesitant individuals may find connections and reasons for them to also then take the vaccine.
Annan Boodram is the President of The Caribbean Voice, a New York-based, registered, volunteer-driven, not-for-profit NGO, engaged in suicide and all forms of abuse prevention in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines — in partnership with sister NGO, ‘Say Enough is Enough Support Group — and the Caribbean Diaspora in North America.
The Caribbean Voice offers free counseling. For more information, please contact us at: email — firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; telephone — What’s App 646-461-0574 or 592-621-6111; or check out our website at www.caribvoice.org.