How can patients who feel stigmatized become Healthy Survivors?
The May 2011 issue of Women's Day has a special report titled, "The Stigma of Illness." Written by freelance medical writer Joan Raymond, the article offers a bird's eye view as well as up-close-and-personal views of the problem of living with disease that carries stigma in society.
Stigma is a mark of disgrace, infamy, reproach. In an effort to understand why certain diseases carry stigma, social scientists such as Dr. Gregory Herek see an association with "widespread perception that something can be attributed to personal weakness or poor lifestyle or moral choices."
The operative word is "perception." Misinformation often shrouds illnesses that carry stigma in society. Patients' disgrace is unjustified.
One paragraph early in the article popped out at me: "The worst part about stigma is that patients often internalize those feelings of shame."
With the first criterion of Healthy Survivorship being to "get good care," it's easy to see how stigma that leads to shame may drive patients away from needed healthcare and, thus, away from Healthy Survivorship.
What's a survivor to do? We'll talk about destigmatizing illness in my April 13th blog post.