Wednesday, 23 September, 2020
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OPINION

Battle Against Stigma



Dixya Poudel

Stigma is associated with discriminations against a particular person or circumstance. And according to World Health Organisation (WHO), "social stigma in the context of health is the negative association between a person or group of people who share certain characteristics and a specific disease." Very often it results in disgrace of the victims ensuing in their ostracism. Although humans are known as social animals, they are also found to be anti-social and often hostile to one another. And stigmatisation is a form of hostility that can only result in dehumanisation of the affected person.
Now that the coronavirus has become a global crisis, more and more infected people have become subject to stigma. However, even those trying to aid the coronavirus patients are mistreated in fear of transmission. This doesn’t bode well for both subjects: one who is the perpetrator and the other who is at the receiving end. Ultimately, it only shows the narrow mindedness of the perpetrators. Throughout the world, health workers are being harassed with people shunning them in fear of contagion. However, the worst-hit are the infected ones who are required to be in isolation and have to face discriminations even when they are free from virus. Those recovered from the virus have confessed that the stigma associated with the disease hurt them more than the infection itself. And due to fears, most people are shunning coronavirus tests as well. However, there are communities who are standing up to stigmatisations. There are organisations working tirelessly to create awareness and spread acceptance and tolerance among the general population. And stigma isn’t a new term. It is something humanity has seen throughout history. Most unfamiliar and new diseases eventually have led to stigmatisation. In outbreaks such as coronavirus, most often people are stereotyped, labelled and discriminated due to their association with the disease. Currently stigma has led to fear, confusion and loss of status amongst those infected and even resulted in shame and mental health problems.
Mental and psychological illnesses too are associated with stigma due to which less and less people seek treatments for their disorders such as anxiety and depression. There are pervasive negative beliefs and attitudes about mental illnesses that need to be addressed. Persistent discriminations against mentally unwell isn’t healthy. It leads to a lower self-esteem and often fewer opportunities in school and work. Bullying and harassments result in gradual decrease in motivation. To stand up against discriminations is monumental not just for the affected people but to the community as well.
When one person stands up against stigma, it sends out encouragement to others while also building a support network. Expressing discontent and disapproval against discriminations can help break the chain of stigma. Social stigma obstructs the obliteration of outbreaks such as coronavirus and thus awareness is necessary to fully obliterate the disease. To battle stigma, a healthy, open and honest approach is needed to build a tolerant environment for each and every individual. Conversations, consultations and discussions about the disease are vital to send a positive message on a communal level.
While stigma is an unfortunate aspect of human society, it can be eliminated through adequate awareness. Each and every human life is equally important and to battle stigma is to make this world a better place. 

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