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Stigma

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What is Stigma?

When you hear the word “stigma,” what do you think of? What picture comes to mind?  

Dictionary.com defines stigma as “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation,” or “a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease: the stigmata of leprosy.” 

Perhaps this brings to mind the classic book The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The red “A” on Hester’s dress was certainly a visible mark of stigma, placed there by society.  

According to Dictionary.com, the definition of stigma is “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.” The medical definition the site provides goes on to say, “a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease.” 

You may have heard phrases such as “the stigma of mental health” or “the stigma of addiction.” But hearing those phrases doesn’t bring a true understanding of what stigma is or how damaging it can be.