Despite the Covid having ravaged India, toppled our healthcare system, and snatched so many loved ones, a lot of people continue to flout protocol concerning face masks (the only credible protection we have to combat the virus, apart from soap/sanitiser and social distancing).
Masks are still used either as ‘chin protectors’ or not being worn at all, thereby throwing caution to the wind about their own safety and that of the public.
“People who show such behaviours usually have antisocial, narcissistic, and schizotypal personalities,” observes Dr Shweta Sharma, Clinical Psychologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurugram.
“These people never follow common practices and are always suspicious of what is asked of them to be done.”
A recent study done by ApnaMask, an initiative by EkDesh, revealed that 90 per cent people are aware of the guidelines issued by the government and risk but only 44 per cent of India is wearing a face mask.
Another revelation was the assumption that as long as social distancing was maintained, a mask was not required as per 45 per cent of respondents. Further, young people within the age group of 26-35 years believe that social distancing suffices as a preventive measure.
Dr. Preeti Singh, Senior Consultant Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram, says, “Risk-taking behaviour, being inconsiderate about others, lack of empathy, lack of remorse or regret after any hurtful or antisocial act are the traits that will be found in people who are not masking up. Apart from this, we also find ignorance and lack of awareness in the majority of people especially from the lower socio-economic strata and rural areas.”
Compliance towards wearing a mask was seen to be highest among those in the age group of 36-55 years.
Similar findings have been reported by a study out of Brazil. Researchers from the State University of Londrina found that people who reported ‘antisocial traits’, are less likely to comply with Covid-19 prevention measures.
Sharma explains that antisocial behaviour is characterised by aggression, hostility towards authorities, deceitfulness and defiance.
Experts also say that many people find masks uncomfortable and others perceive it as their behavioural freedom to be under threat. So, even when we have a strong enough reason to mask up, those people continue to ignore it.
To that, Dr Chandni Tugnait, Psychotherapist and Healer, asserts, “It gives some a sense of control, to have this choice to rebel. The pandemic has caused immense stress and anxiety, which had led many into denial as a means to cope with the same. Denial leads to avoidance and they stop all information that can induce fear thereby not following any safety protocol and hence worsening the situation. It’s that state where one feels that if they act like ‘it’s’ not there, it won’t touch/impact them.”
In some cases, there are people who genuinely lack the ability to feel compassion for themselves and others owing to their insecurities, and hence they act inappropriate and callous.
“Other contributing factors could be the perception of risk, feeling of loss of freedom and control, demographic factors like political affiliation, income, etc. It all boils down to the difference in people’s behaviour, cognition, emotion and motivation,” Tugnait adds.
How to encourage flouters to wear a mask
Singh says it’s high time people understand the role of double masking if they want to stop crashing the medical facilities at such a large scale.
Suggesting solutions, Singh adds, “First and foremost, a penalty needs to be fixed for the defaulters. Apart from that, awareness camps by NGOs, volunteers, and government should be conducted to create awareness, and schools can play a significant role in educating younger ones.”
Sharma feels it’s important to address behavioural problems as early in childhood as possible to prevent it from turning into more severe conditions in future.
“Motivation enhancement training with Cognitive Behaviour therapy in group settings is the most effective way to handle such people,” adds Sharma. People who are more self-oriented and manipulative are less likely to be influenced by authority figures.
“They need to be handled in a gentle and loving way rather than an authoritative impression,” says Sharma.
Experts says use FM radio, music apps, dating apps and social networking sites as means to create awareness.
Penalising, according to Sharma, is definitely not the solution, but psychological treatment is an option. Tugnait agrees, saying there are ways in social psychology to get people to comply with the rules.
“Effective persuasion and therapies, such as sharing valid and supportive reasons, spreading information through a trusted source, being empathetic towards the varying motivations of different groups and portraying consensus methods,” she concludes.
- 9% people are aware of the Covid guidelines issued by the government and risk involved minus a mask
- 44% of India is wearing a face mask
- 50% respondents wear a mask during the entire duration while out of home
- 30% put on the mask only when someone is in close vicinity
- 73% respondents ensure their masks cover mouth and nose when stepping out