Stigma is a powerful force that can impact a person throughout their life despite having support systems in place or moving away from unhealthy situationsIt is not the fault of the stigmatized person, but society has many preconceived, often misguided, notions or stereotypes of people based on one singular quality or attributeDespite this, the person who is being stigmatized has to live with the weight that stigma creates. This can block them from great opportunities in their life because of stigma becoming internalized and reinforced by their surroundings.  

How can we address and acknowledge stigma and move forward as a society? Often times the burden is placed on the individual to change society rather than society to address their own actions and move forward to be better. Currently, there is a big push in challenging stigma in a variety of realms, from the micro-level of interpersonal interactions to systemic stereotypes. My goal with this post is to give a couple of action steps that we can all do address the stigma that we either take part in causing or benefit from.  

First and foremost we need to acknowledge that stigma is a broad term that takes many forms and can manifest in different ways. By recognizing that it can come it many forms from media depictions of people with mental illnesses being the villain to older adults being frail and incapable of independence, we can change how we interact with people. The media is not an accurate representation of people as it needs to play up certain aspects to drive a story and is told only from one viewpoint. Real-life is much more complex. Everyone can be stigmatized in some way, making it important to address our own behaviors and examine how we view people who are different from ourselves.  

Secondly, we can learn about groups or individuals that are different from ourselves through meaningful resources instead of media depictions. I personally love watching TED Talks on topics that are brand new to me and following down a rabbit hole of suggested videos. Nathalia Holt has a great one about “how stigma shaped modern medicine” where she discusses the role stigma has played in healthcare. As a student I found Hailey Hardcastle’s talk discussing “why students should have mental health days” incredible as I struggled growing up with burnout because of my chronic fatigue and mental health days were deemed ‘not a valid excuse’ for a sick day.  

Thirdly, after we have acknowledged and started expanding our mindset it is vital to promise to ourselves to make this an ongoing process. As well as forgive ourselves for not being perfect right away. Change is a lifelong process and perfection should never be the goal. Humility is crucial moving forward. Reading about people’s experiences or writing about your own can also be a beneficial way to move forward.  

Lastly, we can inspire others through our actions and encourage positive talking points about people based on real experiences rather than caricatures, stereotypes, or depictions based on media representations.  


Tiffany Diack

The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.