I apologize for my tardiness with this week's blog - I've been invited to present on the topic of Stigma in Healthcare this week at the meeting of the United Ostomy Associations of America, and preparing my presentation has sucked up all of my time.
I was at the meeting yesterday meeting many of the patients, and I'm always awed by the stories everyone has to tell about personal experiences with stigma. Some of the stories are heartbreaking accounts of discrimination and being shunned by family, and others are lively tales of perseverance, often punctuated with humor. The thread that ties all the stories together is the stigma that runs through them all. However the individual with the health challenge chooses to react (if at all), the fact still remains that stigma is very much alive in our culture.
I believe very strongly that there are two main components in the work to create a stigma-free society. The first is defeating the stigma that exists around us. We do this by educating others when we have an opportunity: everything from speaking before large groups as I often do, to using "learning opportunities" that come up in one-on-one interactions. The second aspect is to alter our own responses to stigma to lessen its impact on us and the world around us. As I mentioned above, the people I speak with who experience stigma can often be divided into two camps: those who feel victimized by stigma, and those who choose to use humor to break down barriers. I don't know anyone who wouldn't be hurt when faced with stigma, but the old saying "When live gives you lemons, make lemonade" can still be applied.
Published On: August 20, 2007