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Known to be friendly and compassionate, when there is COVID-19 it just disappears: Neighbors

A person is called selfish not because he pursues his own good, but because he ignores others. (Richard Whately)

Neighbor illustration. Source: www.freepik.com

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word neighbour?

Friendly? Caring? Full of family? Yes! neighbors are identical with these characteristics. They can become friends, relatives, even family. They are a place for us to share stories, have fun, and complain. Life will not be complete without the presence of neighbors. However, all that changed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. They, neighbors who were known to be friendly, are now notoriously short-tempered.

Those who were known to love to help, are now even more distant. Over time, neighbors are no longer defined as people who live near or next to each other, but are strangers and far apart. Richard Whately said that a person is said to be selfish not because he is pursuing his own good, but because he ignores others. Maybe this word is suitable to describe the attitude of neighbors towards each other during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 Survivors vs Neighbors

Talking about Covid-19 and neighbors, I as a survivor also have a pretty bitter story. The neighbor who is also my brother, went away on the first day when we were self-isolating at home. They didn’t care at all and instead ostracized us. This incident did not only apply to my family, but also to other families in our housing complex. There’s no such thing as helping each other. There are only a few neighbors who really care and want to help, even that is only a matter of fingers. In fact, relatives who live far away are more willing to help us.

This seems to be the case in other areas as well. For example, the story of CB (27), a resident from Cikupa, Tangerang. Reporting from (Kompas.com), CB and his family admitted that they were ostracized by neighbors and local residents when they were in self-isolation. He said that many neighbors often watched his house, which made his mother cry a lot. There are only neighbors in front of the house who are willing to help, while the rest are not there.

Yeni feels the same way. Reporting from (PikiranRakyat.com), many neighbors treat Yeni and her family like people who should be shunned. He explained that his children were always asked to dispose of the garbage in a further place with the reason that they were worried that the Covid-19 virus would spread to them in the pile of garbage. Even more unfortunate, the ostracism did not only take place when Yeni was sick, but continued until she was declared cured.

From some of the stories above, it can be concluded that not all neighbors are friendly and loving. Instead of helping, they prefer to isolate, avoid, and even disappear. However, what is the reason they prefer to avoid and “disappear”?

Neighbors, Stigma Created, and Its Impact

Research conducted by (Dai, 2020) said that the Covid-19 pandemic gave rise to a negative social phenomenon called social stigma. The World Health Organization defines social stigma (in an outbreak) as people who are labeled, stereotyped, discriminated against, and treated differently because they have an attachment to certain diseases (WHO, 2020). Yes, Covid-19 is relatively new and foreign to society. No wonder they tend to feel afraid and anxious about this disease. Especially if there are people around them who are exposed, they will feel even more afraid to the point of creating a stigma, such as the Covid-19 sufferer is a disgrace to the community or the Covid-19 sufferer must be shunned even though he has fully recovered.

In addition to excessive fear, social stigma also arises due to the community’s lack of ability to receive and choose information about Covid-19. Lecturer of the Faculty of Psychology, University of 17 August 1945 (Untag) Surabaya, Dr. Andik Matulessy, M.Sc., Psychologist, said that the public is still very dependent on the information obtained without looking back at whether the information is actual and credible. In addition, the media that often spreads confusing information about Covid-19 is accompanied by a lack of ethics in delivering news, which actually causes social stigma to emerge.

Perhaps, this is what makes neighbors “disappear” when other neighbors are exposed to Covid-19. Starting from the lack of knowledge about Covid-19, the confusion of information, to the lack of ability to sort out the news, it actually led to the emergence of the “negative stigma” virus that was carried out by the community, especially neighbors, to the people around them. Finally, many neighbors are worried and anxious too much. Instead of helping and then contracting Covid-19, they prefer not to help, stay away, and even “disappear” from the presence of the people around them.

In fact, someone who is exposed to Covid-19 really needs the help of others, especially neighbors as the closest person. Neighbors should be able to give support and being present when other neighbors are sick, instead of isolating and cutting off contact and saying goodbye, because this has a big impact on people who are being exposed and survivors of Covid-19. Some of the effects that can appear include excessive sadness, feeling lonely, becoming more closed, easily discouraged, and can even cause a decrease in body immunity and will slow down the healing process.

We Are Neighbors Too

Yes, indeed as neighbors, of course fear, anxiety, and worry are unavoidable. Moreover, with the widespread news about the Covid-19 variant of the Omicron, of course this feeling is popping up more and more often. However, it would be nice if we don’t have bad thoughts, want to help and help, and don’t walk away and just disappear. As good neighbors, we should be there for them. Imagine if we were in their position. Had to endure pain and fight for healing, but instead was ostracized and abandoned. Surely we will also feel very sad right?

As the saying goes, the best of neighbors are those who do good to their neighbors. We can help starting from small things such as asking how he is, sending food, giving him medicine, inviting him to chat, spreading positive things, and so on.

We are neighbors. In happy or in trouble, we should still be present and exist.

Stories of Covid-19 Survivors in Bandung, After Recovering Still Exposed to Neighbors – PRFM News. (nd). Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://prfmnews.tangan-rakyat.com/bandung-raya/pr-131332403/cepat-penyintas-covid-19-di-bandung-after-sembuh-tetap-dikucilkan-tetangga

Talks about Covid-19 survivors who can only isolate independently, ostracized by neighbors and gossip. All pages – Kompas.com. (nd). Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://megapolitan.kompas.com/read/2021/01/13/15303281/curhat-penyintas-covid-19-yang-only-bisa-isolasi-mandiri-kucilkan?page=all

Dai, NF (2020). Public Stigma Against the Covid-19 Pandemic National Covid-19 Proceedings, 66–73. https://www.ojs.literacyinstitute.org/index.php/prosiding- covid19/article/download/47/32

Master of Psychology Untag Surabaya. (nd). Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://mpsi.untag-sby.ac.id/berita-1488-webinar-fakultas-psikologi-untag-surabaya-about-covid19.html

World Health Organization (WHO). (2020). Social Stigma related to COVID-19 Guidelines for preventing and overcoming social stigma.


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