*Ali Gunes is professor of English Literature at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University
The world is grappling with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.
It has hit many countries across the world and caused the death of thousands and thousands of people without distinguishing between the rich and the poor, the old and the young, and so on.
It is not only fair but also too dangerous.
Since it started five months ago, medical experts, health experts, and many others have been trying to develop vaccines throughout the world to fight the deadly virus, and sometimes we hear the good news that the vaccine is hopefully on its way, in a couple of months.
On the other hand, administrators, rulers, politicians, in cooperation with their counterparts in other countries, have taken on the responsibility for organizing health services, treating the infected people, managing economy, helping those who are finally disadvantaged, those who have lost their jobs, after having to impose a curfew, applying quarantine and bringing limitations to some actions of the daily life.
However, the virus not only kills people but it also affects people psychologically, who strive to survive, who stay home in the quarantine, who are economically deprived of certain necessities of life and who have lost their jobs.
It seems that one of the challenges that influence the people during the pandemic and will continue to do so in the post-pandemic period is the psychological problems caused by anxiety.
Numerous people will undergo this mental disorder so that the experts have already started talking not only about the negative psychic effect of the virus many already suffer but also about the possible ways of treatment.
Of them, psychological counseling comes first.
But a warm uplifting family life also equally plays an important role in curing the psychological sickness.
The family institution has undergone dramatic changes and has lost its importance since the industrial revolution.
Today, it is no longer the concern of many people, particularly young people: simply, it has no meaning in their lives because they believe that the family life imposes restrictions on them and brings many responsibilities and that it is too hard to manage family life and children dues to the economic hardship, which negatively influences the majority of people across the world.
Thus, today many young people are not willing to marry at all or postpone their marriage till the late age, and also, the divorce rate is, unfortunately, getting higher and higher every day, further shattering the basis of the family institute and undermining the basis of stable societies.
But this recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown not only how a warm stable family is of vital importance and becomes a safe haven, as well as a center for psychological rehabilitation in the difficult times, but also how its roles never become out of date.
During this pandemic, which has visibly imprisoned almost all the people in their homes, well-established decent family life may play the ensuing three roles as in the past.
First, it appears that the family turns out to be a place for the uplifting emotional and psychological spirit.
For example, the virus spreads very fast, causing people to be locked at home.
They are bored and feel that their free movements are limited.
They listen to the TV news all the time which constantly gives information about the number of death all over the world, frightening them, giving them a sense that they are not secure and they will be locked at home for a long time. Hence we hear the news of many psychological complaints in Turkey and elsewhere.
A warm, solid family life with good relations will help lessen the gravity of the mental disturbance.
Family members will help and support each other, they will talk and listen to each other, they will joke and laugh together, they will tell stories, eat together and spend time together, encouraging each other not only to forget the anxious feeling of the time but also to give them an insight into the view that life continues and that these hard times will pass soon.
Secondly, the family becomes a strong source of financial and physical support during the time of the pandemic.
As we hear on the TVs and see around us, for instance, many people have lost their jobs; some people have had to take unpaid leave, and the salaries of many others have been reduced due to the lockdown of many businesses.
Governments across the world, including the Turkish government, are doing their best to help those people in need.
However, it is not always easy to meet the rising demand and respond to everyone’s call so that the family institute plays an important role to support in two ways those family members who face difficulty.
In the first place, family members support each other financially; they share what they have until the pandemic is over so that the spirit of solidarity, sharing and protecting each other, and belonging to a stable castle enables them to stand on their feet and survive in these tough times. In the second place, the families, living in different places, unite and start living together as extended families.
In this way, they reduce the cost of living and the cost of rent along with the cost of gas, electricity, and water whose prices have dramatically gone up during the pandemic.
As in the past, therefore, the extended family structure relieves the burden of tension and pressure imposed not only on individuals in need but also on society that strives to do its best to protect the life of the people during this hardship.
Finally, the roles above that a good family puts into practice link the distressed people to the future during this hardship not only by adding meaning and value to life but also by having their spirits lifted.
To illustrate, this pandemic descends all of us into a mood of pessimism, resulting in a bleak vision about the future.
This unsettling mood and vision may be about future anxiety, about the job, about financial issues, about education, and importantly about life.
We may lose our sense of continuity since we may immediately be infected and die instantly if it is written in our destiny.
As a result of this depressing feeling, for instance, we have heard that many people who do not have strong faith commit suicide when they learn that they have been infected.
Thus, in such a tragic and miserable situation, a good secure family steps in to provide moral and spiritual care for its members who strive to allay the magnitude of the psychological disquiet; a resilient family will soothe them by cheering them up, chatting with them and supplying them with spiritual and moral support.
Simply, a strong family bond may bring such distressed people back to the normal situation and keep them in the center of life.
In conclusion, although the family institute profoundly suffers today due to the negligence and fragmentation in many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated once again that a stable solid family institute is of vital significance in society not only during the nice times but also during the hard times.
It provides us with love, with a feeling of security and connectedness; it avails us with the opportunities to depend on each other, share what we have, support each other morally and spiritually, and links us to life.
Today the whole world is at war with the family institution; it is under attack from every direction.
Before it is too late, therefore, let’s save the institution of family by giving utmost attention to it in every aspect.
Let’s protect it from the attempts that constantly strive to degrade and crumble it.
**Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.
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