Right now, India is battling an unrelenting COVID-19 surge. People are dying at record numbers, with 3,498 deaths recorded on Thursday alone, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Hospitals are understaffed and overwhelmed, and doctors are turning to social media to beg for oxygen canisters as patients die in droves.
India now holds the second-highest COVID-19 case count in the world — more than 18 million since the pandemic started – and experts say that number is likely an undercount.
When Nisha Sharma, an influencer in Australia, heard the “unimaginable” descriptions of the scene in India from family and friends, she was terrified.
“It’s a really terrible situation,” said Sharma, who grew up in India. “There are no places to burn the dead bodies, and the crematories are full. You can imagine how bad this situation is. I think Indians living abroad or in India all know someone who has gotten infected or at least one person who has lost a life.”
Although the crisis is occurring 8,000 miles away, it’s hitting close to home for many outside of India, and experts say we need to be more aware of the toll the tragedy may be taking on those around us.
“If you work with Indian teams, it’s likely that they themselves or their families/friends/close ones are fighting tough times dealing with COVID,” wrote Rohit Narula on LinkedIn. Narula is an EY tax partner in Hong Kong. “Small ask is to show them some empathy and cut them some slack for small delays, while they deliver through these tough personal times.”
Rohit Narula on LinkedIn: #empathy #compassion | 28 comments
Sharon Steed, founder of Communilogue, an empathy training program, said it may be difficult for Americans to connect with the news abroad as, 14 months into the pandemic, some are feeling coronavirus fatigue.
“It’s hard to care for what another person is going through when we feel like we have suffered so much, but all of us here on this planet are connected,” she said. “This is a very sort of bizarre time in this century where all of us are experiencing the same thing regardless of where we are, and we’re doing it together.”
Original story:India running out of oxygen, hospital beds amid unrelenting COVID-19 surge
‘We as a global community need to care’
Daily life in India is in stark contrast with what’s going on in America. In the U.S., millions of people have been vaccinated, and the CDC announced Wednesday that vaccinated Americans don’t have to wear masks outdoors.
“India is my home, and India is bleeding. And we as a global community need to care,” Priyanka Chopra said in an Instagram video Thursday. “Because unless everyone is safe, no one is safe.”
“No matter where you’re from, what’s happening in the largest democracy in the world is a humanitarian crisis – India needs us. This is real and devastating,” Mindy Kaling wrote alongside an infographic about India’s second wave.
Sharma said the crisis affects more people than we realize.
“Everyone will know someone at work or in their neighborhood or anywhere (that is feeling the impact of the crisis in India). And every Indian knows somebody who has family who is infected or someone who has lost their life,” she said. “Every Indian is just going through a stressful time in the moment.”
Dr. Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist and author of “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People,” said her Indian-American patients are going through an “unimaginably difficult time.”
“It’s so hard, because they want to go back (to India), but they can’t right now. It’s a struggle,” Orloff said.On Thursday, the CDC recommended travelers to “avoid all travel to India.”
The state of the pandemic should “awaken everyone to the fact that we’re connected.”
“Just because India is so far away from us, it doesn’t mean we’re not connected to it, and empathy allows us to feel that interconnection and get out of the egocentric attitude that we’re the only ones who have suffered,” she said.
How can we show empathy and voice your support?
Steed says people may find it “difficult” to show support from afar. Some suggestions to tap into empathy include:
Listen: Dr. Colter Ray, Empathy Bootcamp trainer and a professor at San Diego State University, said it’s important to truly listen to those who are affected.Though it may be tempting to reflect on our own experiences with the virus, he explained it’s important to avoid bringing it back to ourselves.
“We have to allow people to express their reality as it is on the ground for them,” he said.
Stay calm and collected: Though the crisis in India is devastating, Orloff said it’s key to remain calm and collected when speaking to those affected.
“Avoid talking about it constantly, and don’t say things like, ‘Oh, it’s so horrible. I don’t know how you can stand it.'”
She added, “If you’re panicked or anxious, that’s not going to do anything for them or you.”
Pay attention to the news: The least we can do is pay attention and stay aware of what’s going on in India, Steed said.
“I know people don’t have a ton of time to do a lot of research on the severity of the pandemic in India, but I do think we should take the time to engage in their feelings and pay attention to the suffering and pain that’s happening over there,” she said.
Check in: Ray suggested checking in with affected colleagues or friends by asking them, “How are you doing today?”
“But wait three seconds before you do respond, to really give that person time to talk about it,” he added.
Tap into your own experiences: Steed said many Americans will understand how it feels to be in a situation where tens of thousands of people are dying from a disease that is difficult to control. This shared experience is what can allow us to “really empathize with what the people in India and their families are going through at this current state and time.”
“We’ve seen this before though, like in the beginning of 2020 when the virus was in China, France and Italy. We all kind of viewed it as, “Oh, it’s going on over there it’s not coming here. And then it did come here,” she said, adding that “when one person is suffering, in a way we all are.”
Empathy:We’re all first responders amid coronavirus, armed with kindness, compassion and empathy
How to help India
Shipments of oxygen tanks and devices for making oxygen should be on their way to India within the next week, White House officials said Tuesday.
Medications like remdesivir that help COVID-19 patients recover faster will be sent soon, and the administration has promised to send 60 million doses of vaccine made by AstraZeneca.
“We are sending immediately a whole series of help that (India) needs,” President Joe Biden said Tuesday.
If you’re looking to get involved, we’ve rounded up some ways to support India in the meantime.
- Hemkunt Foundation: This NGO aims to provide free oxygen cylinders to COVID-19 patients.
- Khalsa Aid: This international platform provides humanitarian aid, including oxygen concentrators and medical supplies, to disaster areas including India.
- Ketto: This is a crowdfunding platform in India committed to raising awareness and funds for India.
- Sewa International: This nonprofit organization started its “Help India Defeat COVID-19” campaign to ship oxygen concentrators as well as provide food and medicine to families across the country.
Contributing: Karen Weintraub from USA TODAY, Aniruddha Ghosal and Neha Mehrotra from The Associated Press