Coping with the lockdown measures in italy and serbia

I have experienced the state of emergency in both Serbia and Italy: in fact, I returned back to my home town, Perugia, after 3 weeks of the beginning of the Italian lockdown.

I personally used the time staying at home also reflecting on the different impacts on mental health and community reactions to the lockdown measures. Especially, following some of my acquaintances’ comments on social media on how the Italian government was dealing with the restrictive measures, made me think about how our perception can be easily distorted by the media.

The language used to describe this pandemic in Italy (and also in Serbia and many other countries) was similar to the military one. Hospitals became “barricades”, “frontlines”; health workers became “heroes”, “warriors”; the virus was defined as a “silent enemy among us”. The media begun to use patriotic slogans such as “save/ care our country”.
Moreover, the restrictive measures in Italy have been seen by many citizens as “overreacting” and surprisingly for me, as a “dictatorship”.

A pandemic is not a war. Curfews in order to slow down the spread of a virus is not the same curfew of the one during the war. There is a huge difference, when you are fearing for your life during a war (not knowing if the bombs or other soldiers will kill you and your beloved ones) and a pandemic. Still, the human mind is simply amazing and could react in an unpredictable ways.
People in Italy attacked some stores, buying food for at least 2-3 weeks as they were about to be isolated with no social support.

Serbia and the Balkans faced hard times during the war in the ‘90s; Belgrade and Uzice, the town I was carring out my volunteering activities as a volunteer of Peace Civil Corps, were under bombing. Therefore, I thought: will Serbs react as in a post-traumatic situation? How will they deal with the restrictive measures, the curfews, since this emergency situation could re-open a deep wound? At the beginning of the state of emergency in Serbia, people were informed that there would not been the necessity to put a rationing on the shopping of food and groceries. I deeply thought how would be the effect on the local community seeing the police and the army controlling the streets. I over-reacted, because I put myself in the shoes of Serbs who experienced bombings and the fear of not seeing their basic needs satisfied: I wouldn’t even like to see soldiers or even police officers controlling the streets, and this was the main problem, and not the fear of the virus.

So how can a specific local community go back to the “normal” life?

The key, in my opinion, relies in an amazing human ability: resilience. The American Psychological Association describes resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. This is a necessary human resource that must be nurtured, by practitioners, community leaders, youth workers in this specific emergency. Moreover, fostering a deep sense of community is a necessary duty!

“People have an absolute need to be in contact with those they love, with whom they have a significant relationship. This is the first intervention in the crisis: to provide opportunities for people who love each other to be together and to do useful things for each other. It is, of course, a psychosocial intervention „(Vanna Axia, “Emergenza e psicologia”, 2020, p. 175).

Chiara Silvestri