In her review of Patrick Corrigan’s edited book The Stigma of Disease and Disability: Understanding Causes and Overcoming Injustices, Janelle Wagner discusses Corrigan’s exploration of stigma associated with nine health conditions, including serious mental illnesses, substance-related disorders, intellectual disabilities, physical and sensory disabilities, infectious diseases, cancer, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. The book examines societal stereotypes and discrimination against individuals with these diseases and behaviors, as well as internalized and structural stigma. Wagner highlights the chapter by Georg Schomerus that focuses the reader’s attention on “public campaigns aimed at stigmatizing behavior versus presenting behaviors as a public health concern (e.g., smoking, alcohol use).” (para. 6).
These issues lead me to ask to what extent our efforts to reduce behaviors that increase risks for disease contribute to societal and self-stigma. If public health campaigns, for example, against smoking, help to create stigma, are health professionals and researchers in a position to develop evidence-based interventions and public policies to protect and provide supportive resources to individuals who are stigmatized? Are there ways that we as psychologist can assist in the delivery of health messages without contributing to stigma?
By Janelle Wagner
PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(13)