Stopping Health-Related Stigmas

Jillian Berndtson

| 2 min read

Sad woman turned away from group
More than 60% of American adults have a chronic illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Unfortunately, many illnesses and conditions, both physical and mental, are stigmatized in society. Not all physical conditions can be seen. While no harm may be intended when stigmas are reinforced, it’s important to remember that words can and do hurt. It is in everyone’s best interest to be mindful of conversations that may be harmful to others.
There are many dangers associated with stigma. After hearing the stigma, the individual may not want to talk about their illness because they feel they will be judged or shamed. Talking about frustrations is a healthy way to deal with stress, but when barriers are created, that may lead to deeper stress on the individual. It may also stifle their ability or desire to spread awareness about the illness.
Stigma can also affect self-esteem and make the person feel as if they are “less than” other groups of people. After repeated instances, the individual may withdraw from social interactions.
As with any stigma, the more it is shared and socialized, the more apparent it becomes. One simple connotation can spread and suppress the afflicted individual’s voice and story.
Stigma ultimately shows a lack of understanding among peers. No one wants to have any illness and some are unpreventable. The best way to help is to support those living with illnesses and stop stigmas when you hear them.
If you are being subjected to stigma of any kind, here are some helpful tips:
  • Do not believe the stigma. Stigma is oftentimes routed in hyperbolic exaggerations or general misguidance.
  • Seek help or resources when you need it. There are many medical resources, therapy and support groups for people with shared conditions and illnesses. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you feel it’s needed.
  • No one knows you better than yourself. You know your story and your health status. You have the right to share or keep private any information you would like.
  • Your illness does not define you. Oftentimes having a label can be scary. Know that your worth and your identity are not based on that illness. You are so much better than it.
  • Remember that when you encounter stigma, it’s not personal. Many times people forget who they are hurting when they make comments about diseases. Don’t take it personally. It’s hard for others to understand something they have not experienced themselves.
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Photo credit: Fizkes

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