Doc Talk #141 – Stigma

Stigma consists of negative attitudes and beliefs about a group of people due to their circumstances in life.

If you’ve ever been fat-shamed, skinny-shamed, mental health-shamed or drug-shamed or ever felt ashamed about anything relating to your health, then you have probably been a victim of stigma.

We talked about the origins of stigma, different types of stigma and some of the history around stigma.

Our targets of stigma have changed, but it is still very much alive and well. It is very easy to blame individuals without considering the social context. The choices that people make are often highly constrained in ways that are not immediately obvious and are moulded by billions of dollars of marketing.

Some people have argued that maybe stigma is a good thing because it can help individuals to avoid unhealthy behaviours. There is good evidence this is not the case as it prevents people from seeking help and may actually make the behaviours worse.

Stigma can kill! It can stop people who are addicted to opioids from seeking treatment, or emergency treatment such as naloxone kits.

Jamieson: I believe it was the late great poet Tupac Shakur who said that ‘only God can judge me now’!

There is more information about stigma around substance use available on the Government of Canada website.

Photo is of Chinese lepers at the D’Arcy Island leper colony in British Columbia from the BC archives at Call#: D-04783, Cat#: HP067703, Acc#: 193501-001

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