It is an ill-fated element of life that communicable diseases and social stigma go hand-in-hand. Hopefully, this fact may change as we become more educated and aware of how these diseases do and do not spread. I believe this unit may provide a greater insight into the social stigma and those who live with it.
What is Social Stigma?
Social stigma in health is the negative co-relation between society and a person or group who share certain features or a specific disease. However, in an outbreak, this may refer to a pattern of prejudice and discrimination directed to an infected person. Moreover, it can be directed to their family, friends, and caregivers, which may as a result, harm their mental health.
Societies have a vast history of picking and alienating people with a specific feature that is regarded as terrifying or undesirable to others. Indeed, the perception that a person may be a carrier or just exposed to those with a communicable disease can be stigmatizing. For instance, outbreaks of yellow fever, cholera, and plague led communities to side-line people infected or thought to be infected in the past. Lately, it’s due to the widespread cases of TB, AIDS, and the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
Impact of Social Stigma
Social stigma, as mentioned, has a negative effect in the form of complete social isolation. Additionally, in doing so, social stigma can:
– Force people to hide their illness
– Prevent them from seeking immediate health care
– Increase risks of mental illnesses such as depression
Addressing Social Stigma
It is a well-known fact that stigma and fear of communicable diseases significantly set back effective treatment. For this reason, it is crucial to understand the disease and show empathy towards those infected. How one communicates about the disease is also key in supporting the affected to seek the needed health care to combat it.
Here are a couple of tips to address social stigma:
Chose your words wisely:
While talking about a particular illness, certain words, languages, and tones may have a disastrous effect and can incite stigmatization. This may fuel existing co-relations of the disease, create fear, and dehumanize those affected.
To illustrate, given below are certain DOS and DON’TS when talking about communicable diseases.
– DO: Talk about the disease
DON’T: Co-relate the disease with a particular ethnicity or location
– DO: Talk about people “contracting” or “acquiring” the disease
DON’T: Talk about people “infecting,” “spreading,” or “transmitting” the disease to others. This creates the feeling that people with the disease have done something wrong and are thus, less humane than the rest of us. As a consequence, this blame-game incites stigmatization and hatred.
– DO: Spread accurate information about the disease based on scientific research and the latest health care advice
DON’T: Share unconfirmed rumors and fear-monger
Citizens, influencers, media and government bodies all play a major role in reducing stigma.
Below are certain tips on how you can play a part.
– Correct misbeliefs, share accurate and proven information, and challenge myths
– Educate people around you: Stigma can rise due to incomplete knowledge about how a particular disease spreads, how it is treated or prevented. Thus, education is vital in preventing the disease and putting an end to discrimination and stigma. Social media is a convenient way to reach out to a large population while also being the most cost-effective
To sum up, rather than daunting a person with a disease, try to encourage them. You can do so by showing your support and being there for them. Help the shunned around you, stand up for them, educate the masses, and fight back against the unjust. We are united in our compassion, community, and strength, and we shall make the world a better place.