What is social stigma & why covid-19 is causing stigma?
What is social stigma?
Social stigmatization resulting from covid-19 occurs when people are:
- Discriminated against,
- Treated differently,
- And/or experience loss of status Because they are suspected of having been in contact with the virus.
Why covid-19 is causing stigma
The level of stigma associated with covid-19 is based on three main factors:
- It is a new disease about which much is unknown.
- We are often afraid of the unknown; and
- It is easy to associate that fear with ‘others’.
The consequences of stigmatization
- Stigma can:
- Drive people to hide their illness to avoid discrimination
- Prevent people from seeking health care immediately
- Discourage them from adopting healthy behaviors Change starts with you. Let's be open-minded, because we are all in this together!
- Fear about covid-19 is not an excuse for harassment and discrimination
- All people should feel safe and supported in their communities, especially if they are in need.
- Even if an infectious disease like the coronavirus originated in a particular country, it does not necessarily mean that someone from that area, or associated with that area, is ill or contagious.
Know that stigma and shame can adversely impact health authorities’ efforts to identify and assist those in need.
What groups have experienced stigmatization because of covid-19?
- Migrant workers
- People who have tested positive for the virus, and their family and friends
- People returning from an island under monitoring
- People released from quarantine
- People and families under home isolation
- Homes which are under monitoring
- A close contact of a person who contracted the virus
- Health care workers and emergency responders
What happens to groups that are stigmatized?
- They may be excluded or shunned in social situations
- They may often be deprived of the resources they need to care for themselves
- They may be denied access to adequate housing and health care
- They may be targets of verbal, emotional and physical abuse
- They may feel depressed, hurt and angry
- Anyone could be infected with coronavirus, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Help to stop fear by letting people know that:
- Belonging to a particular ethnicity does not increase their chance of contracting or spreading covid-19. Avoid labeling certain communities or areas as likely sources of covid-19. If you can be anything during this difficult time... #bekind
- Combat stigmatization
- You can help reduce stigma and bias by:
- Sharing accurate information from reputable sources.
- Avoiding stereotyping people. Coronavirus does not discriminate between races, nationalities and ethnicities.
- Speaking up if you see, hear or read stigmatizing or harassing comments or misinformation.
- Identifying and sharing stories of migrants within the community involved in the response against covid-19.
- Reaching out to people who may feel stigmatized; ask how you can help.
- Showing support and gratitude to all who provide essential services such as grocers, store-clerks and delivery people.
- Showing compassion and support.
- When it comes to protecting public health, we are all in this together. Do not allow:
- Misinformation to spread,
- Stigma to thrive, and
- Community members to be ostracized. All of the above are counter-productive to improving public health and safety.
Gauge your emotional reaction. Sharing content designed to trigger anger, fear, or sadness can help spread misinformation and hate. Before sharing or reacting to content, reflect on the following:
- What is the source of this information.
- Who does it benefit.
- Who does it hurt. You might know someone who has been ill with covid-19 and survived. They might be your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. Don’t let fear of covid-19 spread stigma. Spread compassion and support instead.
- Do something unexpected to brighten someone's day: share food and give other essentials.
- Wave, smile and say hello to others - simple ways to connect from a safe distance!
- Express gratitude towards the people who are making a difference in your life - whether through making deliveries or simply sharing a smile. Small things can make a big difference.