Bill White takes a comprehensive look at stigma and how it is best tackled in addicted and recovering people in a blog post. He touches on the argument that stigma can be a good thing (acting as a deterrent to others to try drugs) and finds it wanting. He looks at the evidence that stigma harms those in addiction by making it harder to seek help, damages health, and creates obstacles to long term recovery. The tools to tackle stigma are education, personal contact and protest.
Education, personal contact and protest
The best way of tackling stigma according to the accumulating evidence is through person to person contact – a bit like the best way of spreading recovery. In fact, educational strategies are a bit of a damp squib unless they are combined with personal contact and protest strategies.
Shame can be a problem for recovering people but addressing it effectively can indirectly help reduce stigma says White. Shame prevents people being bold about their recovery. I was thinking about the recent UK Recovery Walk and the Scottish Recovery walk. Any folk early in recovery and struggling with shame would have found a powerful antidote through marching shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other recovering people.
Protest works best when the ground is already laid out with regard to education and personal contact. The ‘perils’ of charismatic leadership are best avoided and replaced by the persuasive power of the masses argues White. Changing discriminatory laws and policies ought to be the focus here rather than trying to change attitudes.