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)
“…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
Learn More about Stigma
Language Matters to the American Medical Association
The words we use to describe someone can influence attitudes, beliefs, and behavior toward them, including the care decisions physicians make.
Patients with Addiction Need Treatment – Not Stigma
Written by AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse Junkie. Stoner. Crackhead. We’ve all heard the terms, used to describe those individuals who struggle with drug addiction. These words are dismissive and disdainful; they reflect a moral judgment that is a relic of a bygone era when our understanding of addiction was limited, when many thought that addiction was some sort of moral failing and should be a source of shame. We need to change the national discussion. Put simply, individuals with substance use disorders are our patients who need treatment.