Stigma is a public health issue that discriminates, isolates and humiliates people, and violates their human rights. The set of assumptions and preconceptions rather than facts is strongly associated with addiction and mental disorders. It rather perpetuates a set of negative beliefs among few people or the community against those who live with an addiction. As a result, people in need of help are cornered, looked down upon and shunned by the society and their loved ones. This can greatly affect their mental health and might also lead to homelessness, unemployment, criminal activities, incarceration and even suicide.
To disseminate awareness about addiction and remove the associated stigma, “Reversing the stigma”, a movie produced and promoted by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) was recently released. With narration by famous TV personality and journalist Laurie Dhue, the movie chronicles stories of many people in addiction recovery. In the movie, Dhue talks about her own two-decade-long battle with addiction and the recovery process. The movie also includes interviews from New York residents who are currently in recovery, health care professionals and state leaders. It highlights the amount of work done in New York City to combat addiction and reinforces that it is a chronic disorder but treatable.
OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez believes that the opioid epidemic has impacted people across the country, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or other factors. By telling these stories of real New Yorkers in recovery, it is going to help “reverse the stigma against people with substance use disorders”. According to the organizer of film screening, Brian Hart, “This is a community issue that needs community resolutions.”
Impact of stigma
Those who harbor negative views about drug seekers and resort to violence and rejection are less likely to support better health facilities, insurance, education and employment policies for the benefit of people dependent on drugs or alcohol. They resort to unreasonable behavior and derogatory language to show their contempt. Here is how stigma can influence other spheres of life:
- Treatment – Many a times, health care officials stigmatize the patients which hinders their ability to diagnose the problem effectively and provide the right treatment. Those who already fear reaching out for help are left to suffer in silence.
- Harm reduction – Despite the availability of evidence-based harm reduction strategies like alternate therapies and safe drug injection sites in some states, many people still attach stigma to such services and believe that they facilitate addiction. This also prevents the patient from reaching out for such services where chances of an overdose are minimized in the presence of supervision experts.
- Social and mental impact – Historically, people using substances have been labeled as deviants and outcasts. This can be very discouraging for an addicted person who might be looking for treatment but doesn’t know where to go or whom to ask. The discrimination results in marginalization and a major dip in one’s self-esteem and worth. The societal stereotypes discourage the affected people to come forward and seek support.
Fight against stigma
Individuals and communities can help reduce stigma by:
- being compassionate and offering help
- listening to the one who needs help without judging
- avoiding labelling the person and causing him/her immense hurt
- treating people with dignity and respect
- looking at a person beyond his or her addiction problem
- learning about drug dependence, causes and effects
- speaking up against stigma
We are here to help
Sovereign Health strongly believes in breaking stigma and stereotypes surrounding substance abuse. A leading behavioral health and addiction treatment provider in the United States, we offer customized treatment plans. We understand that recovery is a lifelong process and therefore, our team helps patients continue walking on the recovery path even after they leave our immediate care.
Sovereign Health Group Alumni Services offers chapter meetings, continuing education, life skills trainings and more programs to let our patients embrace sobriety forever. Our team works to build extended support systems for all our former patients. Do not hesitate to call 866-501-9425 or chat online with our representatives if you desire more information on our alumni program.