Today in the news there are many instances of people, nations and organizations working together to better understand and combat the Covid-19 virus. There are also instances of people and communities being targeted in negative ways because of fear and racism.
Blame, fear and conspiracies result in groups of individuals being stigmatized as dangerous, dirty and the sources of the disease. Stigma is negative stereotyping without understanding the underlying complexities of the situation and the harmful effects on the individuals who are labeled in this way.
Erving Goffman’s work Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. New York: Prentice‐Hall, 1963, highlights the process of how people acquire and manage stigmas. How do people live with stigmatized conditions? How do they conceal/reveal them, to whom do they reveal and why? These questions are just for starters, but point the direction for questions specific to the Covid-19 outbreak.
How do the patterns of stigma associated with Covid-19 create social contexts where individuals:
- might try to hide their symptoms (pharmaceuticals),
- could be afraid of going out in their communities/visiting their providers,
- might be using non-biomedical treatments in lieu of biomedicine?
Here are some great resources on stigma that give us some ways of thinking through how it is playing out in the current moment in this pandemic.
The first is a refresher on how stigma affects people and what we can do to stop it. Words matter—the pdf you can download from this site has some communication tips.
The WHO has a good list of Myths about Covid-19 and how to BUST them! Information is power and is an important step forward to combatting stigma.
How is this affecting you as a practitioner? What are educators doing to get the word out to their students. (My students got this post for their discussion next week). Thoughts? Other resources? If you put them in the comments, I’ll add them into the post.