Stigma and COVID-19
Stigma is the disapproval of, or discrimination against, a person based on characteristics that distinguish them from other members of society especially when this is unfair.
Stigma is associated with a lack of knowledge about how COVID-19 spreads, a need to blame someone, fears about disease and death, and gossip that spreads rumours and myths.
It can result in symptoms being ignored; discourage people from seeking healthcare if they develop symptoms and greater transmission taking place.
Some groups of people who may experience stigma during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- People who tested positive for COVID-19, have recovered from being sick with COVID-19, or returnees released from COVID-19 quarantine
- Healthcare providers
- Quarantine/isolation facility staff
- The homeless
Coronavirus is not a death sentence.
Most people recover from COVID-19.
Know your facts so you can correct information when needed. Share only facts and information confirmed by official health sources
Stigma and COVID (2)
Preventing stigma can save lives. Fear, stigma & misinformation can be damaging – and can isolate people. It may cause them to hide their symptoms & prevent them from seeking medical care causing unnecessary transmission.
It hurts those who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19 or are trying to support loved ones who are coping with the condition.
Our choice of words DO matter.
DO: talk about
- “people who have/may have COVID-19”,
- “people who are being treated for COVID-19”,
- “people who are recovering from COVID-19” or
- “people who died after contracting COVID-19”
DON’T: talk about
- “COVID-19 cases”
- “COVID-19 suspects”
- “transmitting COVID-19”
- “infecting others”
- “spreading the virus”
-which implies intentional transmission and assigns blame. Every one of us is capable of contracting and carrying the virus.
Stigma can also make people more likely to hide symptoms or illness, keep them from seeking health care immediately. This means that stigma can make it more difficult to control the spread of this pandemic.
Stigma and COVID-19 (3)
DO: share information based on latest scientific data /latest official health advice
- DON’T: repeat or share unconfirmed rumours/ links from sources that are not trusted or reliable/ ‘funny’ clips or photos with stigmatising messages and avoid using language designed to generate fear like “plague” etc.
DO: talk of the importance of effective prevention measures. The simple steps we can all take to keep ourselves, families, community and the most vulnerable safe.
HOW TO BE HELPFUL
Stopping stigma is important to make all communities and community members safer and healthier. Everyone can help stop stigma related to COVID-19 by:
- Knowing your facts so you can correct information when needed. Share only facts and information confirmed by official health sources
- Correcting negative language that can cause stigma by sharing accurate information about how the virus spreads.
- Speaking out against negative behaviours and statements, including those on social media.
- Maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of those seeking healthcare and those who may be part of any contact investigation.
- Thanking healthcare workers, responders, and others working on the front lines.
- Supporting families, caregivers and health care providers affected by COVID-19
- Showing compassion in the face of suffering without putting yourself or anyone else at risk.
- Not allowing people to become emotionally/socially isolated
Public health emergencies, such as this pandemic, are stressful times for people and communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to stigma.
Stigma hurts everyone by creating fear or anger towards a person instead of focusing on the disease that is causing the problem. Stigma can also make people more likely to hide symptoms or illness, keep them from seeking health care immediately. This means that stigma can make it more difficult to control the spread of this pandemic.