The deadly Coronavirus epidemic continues to spread in my state of California and throughout the country. Medical experts have clearly identified the reason that the epidemic is getting out of control is that a significant number of people are not listening to the medical experts and are not using facial masks, keeping social distancing nor are they following other precautions concerning opening businesses, restaurants, beaches, sporting and political events etc. Of course, these people do not want to get sick or spread this illness to their loved ones. Such individuals are using a very common unconscious psychological defense mechanism of “denial” to keep out of their consciousness that their behavior could be fatal to themselves and their loved ones. They support this denial with another well-known psychological defense mechanism known as “rationalizations”. Examples are, “I am healthy and won’t get sick”, “These precautions by the experts are political in nature”, “You are only young once” and many other rationalizations. Because these are psychological defense mechanisms and they won’t protect anyone from this fatal virus, I have coined a new term for this denial and am calling it “FATAL DENIAL.”
In order to overcome this “fatal denial” we must communicate the message to the deniers as coming from people with whom they have a strong positive identification. There are well known scientific approaches to determine who such people would be. This is the technique of running focus groups with a wide cross section of deniers. (The advertising industry is quite skilled at utilizing this method). During such meetings it would not necessarily be important to determine the rationalization that are used but rather the scientific inquiry would be to identify who are their role models and heroes among movie, tv, music, sports and even political stars. Once these names were identified, they would be approached and be invited to participate in a massive public service announcement campaign which would speak to the Fatal Deniers. There should be TV and radio ads as well as billboards and posters as well as a concerted campaign on social media which could be made available throughout the country. In addition to the “heroes” being the face and voice of these announcements, there also should be series of such announcements done by young and older regular people who have lost loved ones to the virus.
While I would hope that celebrities might donate their time and perhaps networks would also donate free time for these pieces, there still would be costs in making them and distributing them. I would hope that Governor or California and the state legislature as well as their counterparts in other states would be interested in supporting such a program. I know TV producers who would be skilled and capable of carrying out such a program and I would be willing to help in any way that I can. Perhaps such people as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and others might get behind such a life saving program and provide the financial support needed.