Medical Officer Speaks Out Against Cyber-Bullying

Medical Officer Speaks Out Against Cyber-Bullying

A Canadian doctor who is being bullied online over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic has called for people to treat each other with kindness and respect.

The receipt of online threats has been an issue for the medical officer of health for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, Dr. Wajid Ahmed, and his colleagues since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. However, the problem has worsened in recent months.

Speaking out to mark Bullying Awareness Week, Ahmed said: "We have received many threatening letters to the health unit and also emails, which is, again, all understandable. People are frustrated, people are upset.

"The message we want to share is it's not okay to bully anyone." 

Ahmed took up the position of medical officer in January 2019. He told CBC that since the novel coronavirus outbreak, he and Theresa Marentette, the health unit's chief nursing officer, have been "living and breathing . . . I want to call it a nightmare, not a dream, of COVID pandemic." 

Married father of three sons Ahmed revealed that his children had been upset after reading cruel comments posted about their father online. However, the doctor from Pakistan who carved out a career for himself in Canada turned the negativity into a teaching moment.

"I use that as an opportunity to teach them. What people do, it is beyond our control or anyone's control, you cannot control behavior," said Ahmed.

"The only thing we can change is the perspective of society, is to learn to be kind, is to learn to be okay to have your own opinion . . . but you having an opinion does not mean you can start challenging anyone and everyone about whatever they believe in and intimidate them in such a way."

Ahmed said that fear of being cyber-bullied was putting some people off seeking medical assistance for COVID-19.

"There can be online gossip related to potential cases, threats around disclosing information around close contacts and even threats made to [the] victim for being ill," said the doctor.

Ahmed said such behavior may cause people to hide their symptoms or avoid getting tested "out of fear of what may be said to them because of their diagnosis."

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