Why Vaccines and COVID-19 are Widely Denied in Bulgaria? A Psychiatrist Answers

Society » HEALTH | November 25, 2021, Thursday // 15:53
Bulgaria: Why Vaccines and COVID-19 are Widely Denied in Bulgaria? A Psychiatrist Answers Facebook

Those who reject the existence of the coronavirus experience unconscious shame and fear. Shame on one's own weakness and fear of disintegrating when exposed to the virus, psychiatrist David Ieroham told DW.

David Ieroham is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. He was born in 1947 in Sofia, graduated from the Medical Academy, where he specialized in psychiatry, and is also involved in psychodrama. He is a university lecturer and author of publications in the field of psychiatry, psychotherapy and culture.


Mr. Ieroham, how has the pandemic crisis affected the mental health of our society? Apart from being a bystander, what are your personal observations of your patients?

David Ieroham: I can't give a generalized assessment or group people. Everyone reacts more or less individually, according to their personal character, history, attitudes. Some demonstrate natural fear, withdrawal from life, closure, many worries and efforts to protect themselves. On the other side is a carefree, courage, arrogance.

Unfortunately, in our society there is a lack of sincerity, there is much more hypocrisy, intentionality. There are people who ignore, are not afraid, or simply do not pay attention to Covid-19. However, it is important to respect the fears of others.

Aren't anti-vaccination and coronavirus rejection compensatory mechanisms through which an attempt is made to psychologically go through a crisis of this magnitude more easily and painlessly?

David Ieroham: It depends on how this is demonstrated. Yes, there is an arrogant, "television" type of anti-vaccination, protest. It is a way to assert yourself - by fighting the status quo and the system. Whenever there is overexertion, over-tension, over-affirmation and non-admission of other people's opinion, this is compensatory. It is an unconscious mechanism, a denial, a protective mechanism of the psyche so that it does not disintegrate. And when deniers sometimes touch the disease through themselves and their loved ones, they fear that they may collapse and disintegrate. This is the unconscious fear. But over-keeping is also compensation. The problem is that we can never say what is too much and what is not. Covid-19 is an insidious enemy, “he” is unknown, mysterious, steps quietly and sits down next to us delicately, we do not know exactly when this happens. We don't know “him”.

Is there an easy and affordable recipe for maintaining mental health in such a situation? Especially when it lasts for years?

David Ieroham: There are no easy recipes for mental health. It is worth noting that in order to protect ourselves, we must take care of public health, not only for the people around us, but also for society. We make very big sacrifices to the virus. This is because we are very vulnerable. We are quite physically ill, as well as socio-economically. There is no health care system, the institutions are sick, and we should pay attention to the fact that everyone has a vulnerability that is exposed when they are attacked. Each person is weak in a unique and individual aspect in a different place, and the virus attacks right there. We need to think about how we, as good soldiers and co-soldiers, can pay our tribute so that society makes fewer sacrifices.

What is your explanation for the mass denial of the virus and the rejection of vaccines?

David Ieroham: I am not able to give a satisfactory answer to this question. However, I can point to one good reason - shame. There is too much shame in our society. Shame on the past, both on the recent and distant past. Shame on you to get sick, to be afraid, shame on your own weakness. Shame that it is possible to take care of your life more than you think you should. We do not realize this shame and overcome it with thoughts of grandeur and omnipotence: we are a great people, invulnerable, we have experienced so many things and we have nothing to do with any small virus.

The other thing is that there is a lot of mistrust in the information cycle. All opinions enter the society unfiltered. And because we are human, we always want things to be better and look a little away from reality. And the greatest drama is experienced after unrealistic expectations.

In an election year, was it realistic to expect politicians to manage the crisis more impartially without sinking into populism?

David Ieroham: I think that when there is a crisis, we have to act quickly, decisively, in a sense, even authoritarianly. Because in a crisis, quick solutions are required. And this cannot be done by setting up working groups. Someone has to take responsibility and the consequences for that. The point is not so much for the experts to say, but for the politicians to make a decision, and quickly, efficiently and, I would say, authoritarianly. It's like in a state of war, when the army is in chaos, someone has to take responsibility and start issuing orders.

And it can be said that not taking responsibility is a disease of our society. And this is not only a moral problem, but also a communicative one. Responsibility also means giving an answer.

Wouldn't a firmer and more consistent political behavior be approved by a large number of Bulgarians?

David Ieroham: I think yes and I can explain why. When we are born, authoritarian figures appear on our mental stage. These are the parents we depend on. We obey them, and our detachment from them is gradual. In the early stages of the epidemic, it could have been taken more firmly, and I think that would have been more successful. And then the people themselves would be encouraged to make clearer decisions, not just to be divided into "for" and "against".

Do the number of victims and the damages that Bulgaria suffered lead to the conclusion that we are a failed state and community?

David Ieroham: From the point of view of the deceased, their loved ones, their pain and grief, as well as the drama they experience, we probably really look like a failed community and a failed state. The community is a dynamic whole, there is turbulence in it. All countries have made serious sacrifices, but we have made the most. And this is tragic.

It seems that in our society the number of candidates for main characters who appear on the stage has decreased. It is about those who define themselves as characters and say that the plot will develop around their fate. Most of us prefer to be in the audience. To be neither authors nor directors, actors, or even extras, but to be in the audience and watch. In the last election, two-thirds sat and watched. It is about the future of our society, things are serious. And this is very dangerous.

The death toll from the disease outnumbers the victims of wars in which the country has participated. How is such a trauma treated?

David Ieroham: The first step is to see what happened, to understand and get a clear idea of ​​its size. And to sound it according to the scale. The next is mourning - to mourn our losses and go through healing grief. Then let's try to move away from what happened and realize our mistakes. And try to fix what is broken.

Do you see people discussing this drama in tolerable and understandable language and explaining what we are going through?

David Ieroham: There must be such people and speakers. We need them to enlighten us. But I think it's also an obligation for all of us. In its essence, such a discussion is a creative activity. Everyone who thinks they are artists in their craft should do it.


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Tags: david ieroham, Coronavirus, vaccines, shame, Bulgaria
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