Stigma and Fear about COVID-19

Novel diseases such as COVID-19, are met fear which drives stigma about the disease. By virtue of being unknown, coupled with worldwide hysteria and panic, COVID-19 has instilled fear and misunderstanding among communities.

The stigma associated with COVID-19 manifests when people that are affected by or infected with the virus experience discrimination. The lack of knowledge about how COVID-19 spreads, a need to blame someone, fears about disease and death, and gossip that spreads rumors and myths breeds stigma against those affected by the disease.

People who experience stigma and negative perceptions are more likely to hide symptoms, refrain from seeking health care, and prevent individuals from adopting healthy behaviours. An added element of trying to address the stigma and fears associated with COVID-19 pose an additional challenge to providing correct information to control the spread the outbreak.

Community leaders and public health officials can help prevent stigma by:

  • Maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of those seeking healthcare and those who may be part of any contact investigation.
  • Quickly communicating the risk, or lack of risk, from contact with products, people, and places.
  • Correcting negative language that can cause stigma by sharing accurate information about how the virus spreads.
  • Speaking out against negative behaviours and statements, including those on social media.
  • Making sure that images used in communications show diverse communities and do not reinforce stereotypes.
  • Using media channels, including news media and social media, to speak out against stereotyping groups of people who experience stigma because of COVID-19.
  • Thanking healthcare workers, responders, and others working on the front lines.

Public health officials and communities can play a role to address the stigma by providing the right information about COVID-19, addressing misinformation and rumours, as well as building trust with communities.

© 2019 National Education Collaboration Trust