As the impending threat of the Covid-19 pandemic slowly integrates itself into people’s daily lives, a surge of memes and videos making light of the situation has been injected into the bloodstream of social media. As psychology explains, doing so may be some people’s way of coping with the stress brought about by the pandemic.
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently published a document addressing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people’s mental health. After assuring that the organisation was working closely with public health officials all over the world in order to combat the further spread of the outbreak, it acknowledged an aspect of the pandemic that was affected–that of people’s mental health. “(T)his time of crisis is generating stress in the population,” the document stated, before listing down several steps different sectors could take to help maintain not only people’s physical health, but their mental health as well.
Among the measures listed in the document, the WHO included “Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that cause you to feel anxious or distressed.” It also stressed the importance of differentiating between facts and hearsay, as “(t)he sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried.”
Aside from this, the WHO also discussed the significance of highlighting good news. “Find opportunities to amplify the voices, positive stories and positive images of local people who have experienced the new coronavirus (COVID-19) and have recovered or who have supported a loved one through recovery and are willing to share their experience,” it said.
With regard to those caring for children, the WHO emphasised the value of “help(ing) children find positive ways to express disturbing feelings such as fear and sadness (as) every child has his/her own way to express emotions,” it explained. “Children feel relieved if they can express and communicate their disturbing feelings in a safe and supportive environment.”
However, it seems as though the statement isn’t only applicable to children, as adults have been having to deal with negative emotions as well, with the Covid-19 pandemic severely affecting the social and economic aspects of day-to-day life. In light of this, the circulation of memes and comical video clips which make light of the serious situation may not actually be as insensitive as some people take them to be.
According to a Psychology Today article by Psychologist Cathy Malchiodi PhD, “(h)umor is a natural stress-reducer and symptom-reliever that has been related to improved health, increased life expectancy, and overall well being.” In her article, Ms Malchiodi discussed the positive mental and physical results of laughter. “Since the late 1980s, a number of studies support the idea that laughter stimulates the immune system and counteracts the effects of stress hormones, although results are mixed about exactly how,” she said. “In brief, there’s agreement that it’s another way to arrive at the relaxation response.”
This may very well provide an explanation as to why there has been a surge in the circulation of Covid-19 memes, parodies, and videos aiming to get a laugh out of people. It could be that for certain people, making light of things is more of a coping mechanism than it is a chance at fame.
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