Guest Column: Kindness Not Bullying – Please; We Are In This Together

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Dear Community,

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, I want to discuss a very important unintended consequence that has become more common in recent months. This unintended consequence is that many people and their families have been victims of bullying after testing positive for COVID-19.

Please do not take this note as an indication that we are not doing well. Grey Bruce is doing fantastic to work together to ensure we are successful. I do want to congratulate everyone for helping to ensure success in regards to COVID-19. Saying that, we must always identify challenges, and ways we can improve the situation even more, especially with us moving in to a potential second wave.

In this day and age, bullying should not be tolerated. The impacts can be extreme no matter our age when bullied. Nobody typically tries to get COVID-19, and nobody deserves bullying as a result. I find it so disheartening that friends, community, and even family could bully someone, who, contracts a virus (any virus).

My message to the community is simple; let us act out of love, compassion, sympathy, and empathy, instead of leaning on misunderstanding and frustration. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of a family that gets the phone call; “you are positive for COVID-19”. Let us imagine the emotions that we would feel with that diagnosis and the implications that it has on our family, friends, colleagues, work, income, and other potential supports. Imagine your child receiving a diagnosis and thinking about the potential impacts that it will have on their friends, school, bus, extracurricular activities and other families. Think of a teenager in an especially vulnerable stage of life and the life-altering impacts bullying would have on them.

We manage these calls regularly at the Health Unit. We listen to the hardships that families endure after their diagnoses. We hear the parents voice tremendous concern and helplessness when their children are ostracized or targeted. We hear from adults who share their stories of employment issues, lack of support, and being shunned for periods well beyond the period of communicability.

I want everyone to know, COVID-19 may come and go, but our actions during this difficult time will stay with us forever. I strongly urge:

-You to think about your actions and words when you know someone is going through a diagnosis and recovery. 

-Parents to talk openly with your children about the importance of kindness and understanding. Reach out to offer your support to other parents. 

-Teachers to talk about this with their students and be watchful for bullying in the classroom or playground. When you see, stop it. 

-Community leaders to speak out on the importance of acceptance, empathy, and kindness

-Everyone; stop bullying when you see it

We are in this together, and we must all lean on each other. Now is not the time to get angry and bully each other. Now is the time to carry each other through tough times, knowing that we may need to assistance, encouragement and support at some point in the future. Let us collectively fight this pandemic as a united community. The only way to do this is by understanding, and being sympathetic to each other’s situation.

We have done fantastic so far during COVID-19, but these stories are becoming too common.

Thank you for listening, and please, be kind to one another.

Sincerely,

Ian Reich, 

Public Health Manager