The Chernobyl tragedy is an indicative lesson not only in the context of the discipline of handling peaceful nuclear energy. It’s also about poor communication or even its lack and the results it can lead to. The world saw the consequences of the Soviet anti-communication policy and social conjuncture on the example of the Chernobyl disaster. Apparently, the dictatorship of understatement can do harm no less than radiation, classifying the causes and consequences of the disaster.
Everyone knows about the terrible consequences of the Chernobyl accident, which affected the health of millions of people on the planet. However, the topic of their mental health often goes unnoticed even today. Nothing more to say about the time when only one thing was in the foreground: to eliminate the consequences of the tragedy. And this had to be done as soon as possible. Moreover, by means of minimal information leakage.
The Chernobyl accident became a huge psychological trauma for Ukrainians. The Soviet government hid information about the catastrophe for a very long time. It didn’t explain either the true causes of the tragedy, or the area of radiation leakage, or the consequences of its impact. People replaced the lack of information with myths and rumors. Some myths harmed physical health. For example, alcohol purifies the body of radiation. Others harmed the mental state of people. For instance, the myth that radiation is a “viral infection” and is transmitted from people who came from the Chernobyl zone. There are enough cases when the settlers from the Chernobyl Zone were looked upon as the sick.
First of all, the authorities strived to eliminate the consequences of the accident. But as a result, they didn’t think about the possible effects on the psyche of people. According to research by the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the victims of the accident have developed a complex of psychological problems.
Lack of communication and, at the same time, a strict policy of voluntary and forced resettlement didn’t give a person the right to choose. Hanging the label of “a Chernobyl victim” destroyed the psyche and changed the outlook of generations of Ukrainians. It happened even regardless of the damage caused to the person by the accident. The status of the “Chernobyl victim” became a negative label. This began to scare away, instead of arousing respect and a desire to help.
State benefits failed to compensate for moral damage. People who moved from the Chernobyl Zone felt like they were in a “social exclusion zone”. Children affected by the aftermath of the accident often developed a learned helplessness syndrome. Their mindset was focused not on solving problems individually, but on finding ways to pass the buck.
Evacuation and subsequent resettlement led to a great negative impact on the human psyche. The inhabitants of the Zone had to leave their homes, work places and friends; their financial situation got worse. They often had to change their profession. Life in a new place had to start practically from scratch. For some, this inspired optimism. For others, it became a test of strength, which often led to tremendous stress.
Some people were unable to withstand this separation. They returned to their native lands and contaminated territories. And they continue to live there even today. These people managed to get through the catastrophe. But they couldn’t return to normal life. There is a huge social and psychological gap between them and modern society, which is unlikely to be overcome.
The Chernobyl accident and some peculiarities of living in the Exclusion Zone absorbed them in every sense. For some, they are outcasts who haven’t regretted accepting the general rules. For others, they’re “Robinsons” who doomed themselves to a challenge. Regardless of the labels hung, they, like any other category of people, are our compatriots.
COVID-19 and Chernobyl-86: political bonuses, vaccination or humanity
It’s no secret that emergencies and disasters occur during the lifetime of every generation. Natural, man-made, social or global shocks aren’t something fantastic. Humanity lives in these realities all the time.
The authorities have its special role: to do everything so that people can survive. And the role of the entire society is to help each other get through the cataclysms, both physically and psychologically. In particular, to build honest communication with each other. Lack of information breeds fear, which can do much more harm than the problem.
In this spirit, the case that occurred with the first reaction to COVID-19 in Ukraine is extremely indicative. This, like the Chernobyl accident, clearly shows an attempt to discriminate against people who have returned from epidemic-stricken China. While the plane was landing at the Kharkiv airport, residents of Novy Sanzhary blocked the road to the military sanatorium.
The reaction of people in Chernivtsi, where the first case of COVID-19 infection has been registered, is also indicative. Residents of the apartment, where a spouse of the infected person lived, protested and blocked the road, demanding the isolation of the woman. As a result, the authorities had to isolate a healthy person for observation under public pressure.
Chernobyl-86 and COVID-19 aren’t the first, but not the last incidents of humanity. And if we miraculously manage to minimize technogenic cataclysms, we will hardly be able to get rid of viral ones. In any case, WHO assures that we’ll have to go through more than one pandemic in the near future. Therefore, physical, material and psychological, communication problems will affect everyone sooner or later.
Being ready to meet them means making an attempt to minimize their negative consequences. To do this, we need to correctly learn the lessons of both Chernobyl-86 and the coronavirus pandemic. Having mastered them, we’ll create a competent algorithm for interaction between the authorities and society. Its main criterion should be mutual trust and responsibility. The habit of fighting for political bonuses against the background of misfortune or general fear of the unknown should disappear on a universal scale. And it doesn’t matter how it will be realized: by the humanity of society or by means of its vaccination.