What is Stigma?

Stigma is defined as a set of negative beliefs that a group or society holds about a group of people or people who demonstrate a particular behavior. Stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion and it contributes to the abuse of human rights. When a person experiences stigma they are seen as less than because of their real or perceived health status. Stigma is rarely based on facts but rather on assumptions, preconceptions, and generalizations; therefore, its negative impact can be prevented or lessened through education.

Stigma can result in prejudice, avoidance, rejection, and discrimination against people who have a socially undesirable trait or engage in culturally marginalized behaviors, such as drug use (Link, 2001).

References: World Health Organization and Link (2001)

Language Matters

“…words can be powerful when used to inform, clarify, encourage, support, enlighten, and unify. On the other hand, stigmatizing words often discourage, isolate, misinform, shame, and embarrass…”

Excerpt from “Substance Use Disorders: A Guide to the Use of Language” published by CSAT and SAMHSA

Language and Stigma – examples

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Learn More about Stigma

Substance Use Disorder Stigma   Mental Health Stigma

Resources

PCSS Education and Training Videos

Videos created with patients, family members and medical professionals.

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