“That should have been the attitude of implementors of ECQ, a high level of compassion, understanding and patience. Policemen and soldiers should have this kind of attitude but their default is to arrest, or use their guns on people, which does not help in this time of crisis.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Harsh punishments on so-called violators of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) have effects on their mental health, a doctor said in an online discussion about mental health in the time of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on Wednesday, April 29.
As people are experiencing stress due to the restrictions brought about by the ECQ, punishments such as putting people inside a dog cage or hurting them or detain them can aggravate to their state of mental health, said Dr. Geneve Rivera-Reyes of Health Alliance of Human Rights (HAHR).
Reyes lamented that enforcers do not consider what the effects of these punishments on the people.
“In this time of the pandemic, compassion and patience is important especially those who implement the ECQ protocols,” Reyes said in the third episode of Second Opinion.
She cited the killing of Cpl. Winston Ragos, a mentally ill patient, as proof of the lack of preparation and proper orientation of those who man the checkpoints.
“We can only surmise that these law enforcers are not oriented on the possible scenarios that they will encounter and how will they react or respond to it,” Reyes said.
This is the problem when those who implement the ECQ protocols are not health-oriented because there is a tendency to use violence, said Dr. Gene Nisperos of the Community Medicine and Development Foundation (Commed).
“As the saying goes, ‘If your only tool is a hammer, everything you see looks like a nail.’ This is saddening,” said Nisperos.
Nisperos said that unlike men in uniform, health personnel are trained to respond appropriately even to patients who have tendencies to be violent.
A substance abuser who is in withdrawal stage has a tendency to be violent because he is afraid but health personnel are still careful in handling this kind of patient without hurting him, Nisperos said.
“That should have been the attitude of implementors of ECQ, a high level of compassion, understanding and patience. Policemen and soldiers should have this kind of attitude but their default is to arrest, or use their guns on people, which does not help in this time of crisis,” Nisperos said.
Reyes called on government to reorient law enforcement authorities. “They should be here to protect the people, not to cause further damage in an already stressful situation,” she said.
Psychiatrist Dr. Reginald Pamugas, meanwhile, said that government should also respond to the mental health needs of the people in this time of the pandemic.
He said that while efforts of the government are centered on COVID-19 response, other out-patients, including people with mental health diseases, are left out.
“With most hospitals now rejecting patients to avoid contracting COVID-19, where will the patients go? Where will they get their medicines?” he said.