We talked to psychologist and therapist Paola Hurtado about how the incidence of Covid-19 is affecting society.
Good afternoon, thank you very much for chatting with Meik magazine.
Q.- Fear has spread faster than the virus itself. Do you think we feel more vulnerable to this invisible enemy?
A.- Yes, I think we felt more vulnerable in general, at first we may not understand what was going on but over time fear was one of the protagonists of the current situation, in fact fear and uncertainty led to anxiety, and to confront unresolved emotions and issues. In addition, the circumstances of many people increased this sense of vulnerability, for example, the fact that they have no guarantees to access minimum medical services,, made the situation for many undocumented migrants unsustainable.
Q.- According to experts in social psychology from the University of Granada, society dehumanizes and humanizes other people based on the key variable of identification with the group, what is your opinion in this regard?
A.- In part I have to admit that I am not much of a study, because they are often very biased according to the objectives and the gaze of those who carry them out, in fact the conclusions of the question seem so. I get the feeling that she is trying to justify dehumanization and historical racism. Dehumanization is not a natural group process, it has been a historical process intentionally created to favor European and white people. After all, dehumanization always occurs towards racialized migrants. It does not happen the other way around.
Q.- There are thousands of situations suffocated under the discourse of national unity, collective responsibility and solidarity in which inequalities, state violence, racism and sexism have been organizing social life for years, how is it affecting society and, especially, racialized people?
A.- Hate speeches are well received by society in general, people buy very easily the “people migrates come to steal, to take away the aid, etc” so that in the end it ends up being an unlivable situation for people read as migrants. It doesn’t really matter where you were born, the fact is that if your skin passes some tones or your features are not read as European and white, the situation is very similar. People who experience such harassment on a daily basis from those speeches in the end end up with very exhausting moods.
Q.- Has the coronavirus pandemic further fueled the xenophobia virus?
A.- Yes, for many reasons. It has shown the hatred of the foreign from the global south, expulating it from public health in a pandemic situation. On the other hand, the Asian people have suffered many episodes of racist violence, to the point of experiencing a lot of fear of going out to the streets now that we are beginning to power.
Q.- The media play a fundamental role for society. How do you think they are managing this crisis on a psychological level?
A.- The media depends a lot on who is behind. For example, media like this are very necessary, hopefully we could have greater visibility and go out in other media such as TV and consumer magazines. Then the racist speeches that exist in most media hurt our self-esteem, not only by stereotyped headlines but also by the invisibilization that we suffer. Many racialized people, who have anxiety crises and feelings of sadness after seeing very racist and xenophobic headlines, invisibility also takes its toll on us.
Q.- Both the impact of this health crisis and the labor and economic uncertainty that we are experiencing, added to those situations that widen the inequality gap, can cause anxiety and stress that seriously harm our mental health. How can we face it?
A.- Yes, the system is designed to favor European and white people. So when there are these crisis situations the inequality gap is growing. We racialised people suffer a lot of violence from institutions and society in general, which ends up hurting our tranquillity. Tackling this is not a simple task, as a comprehensive approach is needed. I think it is important to redefine well-being since even the idea of well-being is designed to favor the European lifestyle.
Q.- In your opinion, what do you think are the proposals and / or strategies that should be adopted to mitigate the aforementioned psychological consequences?
A.- Dealing with or managing stress and anxiety is not an easy task. It happened to me that psychology as I knew it did not offer well-being or at least not the one that meets our needs. So it was very important for me to politicize my practice in such a way that when we talk about psychological consequences it not only implies will, stress management and emotions, but it is also a matter of social justice.
Q.- We want a better, more solidary society, a mutual aid society… how could we bring these values to reality? Isn’t it all a problem of education from primary school? Should elements of coexistence and learning of respect be included in the study plans?
A. I think that addressing education is very important for young people, although I fear it is not enough. We need commitment from the institutions, historical redress, etc. I think that in general the whole structure that supports the discriminatory system that threatens the welfare of the smallest children needs to be reconfigured.
To finish, tell us a thought to stay with.
Perhaps we prioritize self-care and care in the community.