Stigma in health and social work: towards a new paradigm
The concept of stigma is so familiar that it may seem to have lost its potency, if not its meaning altogether. It is rarely defi ned and is often used alongside or in place of, other popular concepts such as discrimination and exclusion. It is used in so many situations, that it inevitably leads to the question: why bother with such a hackneyed and outdated concept? This chapter argues that it is vital that we revisit the idea of stigma, not as a way of uncovering yet more ‘victims’ to be pitied or consoled, but instead as part of a transformative agenda for individual and social change in social work and health. The chapter draws on my own experience, fi rst as a social work practitioner for many years, and then as a researcher studying the impact of HIV (parental and own) on children in families in Scotland. This is not, of course, to claim that HIV stigma is the only kind of stigma worthy of examination. Rather, it is to acknowledge that HIV is particularly stigmatised and stigmatising, as will
The chapter will examine ‘ stigma ’ in health and social care, offering a new way of thinking about how this might be understood and confronted.