Stigma: the concept of labelling and social exclusion

What is it?

Stigma is “a social process, experienced or anticipated, characterized by exclusion, rejection, blame or devaluation, that results from experience, perception, or reasonable anticipation of an adverse social judgment about a person or group” (Weiss & Ramakrishna). Prejudice, negative attitudes and discrimination are part of stigma.

Why is it relevant to NTDs?

Stigma and discrimination, and its mental health consequences affect many NTDs. The prejudice, stigmatization and discrimination that people experience can be more limiting than the condition itself. It may have social, psychological and health-related consequences. Social exclusion is a common consequence, including reduced education and work opportunities, which in turn lead to or may aggravate poverty and may reduce marriage prospects. Psychological consequences may affect mental health and include low self-esteem, depression and even suicide.

For which NTDs is this relevant?

Stigma, discrimination and mental health are associated with 10 of the 18 NTDs, particularly Buruli ulcer, leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, certain forms of schistosomiasis, Chagas disease and podoconiosis.

What are the opportunities for use across NTDs?

Although the reasons why certain NTDs are stigmatized may differ across cultures and religions, the manifestations and consequences of stigma are very similar across NTDs and cultures. Also interventions that have been shown to be effective can be used across NTDs. This is true for interventions aimed at reducing NTD-related stigma and discrimination in society (including e.g. health services) and for interventions seeking to prevent or ameliorate negative psychological and social effects in persons affected and their families. Instruments to measure stigma and its effects are available and have been used for studies on several NTDs. They can easily be adapted for use with other NTDs also.

Read more information and view relevant publications on stigma and discrimination and mental health.