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Stigma & Discrimination

 The IPATHA initiative seeks to measure and mitigate stigma. Goffman (1963) defined the experience of stigma as the manifestation of a “spoiled identity.” Individuals who are regarded as being undesirable or potentially dangerous often live with ridicule, bullying, and illegal discrimination. As a result, in addition to the potential for low self esteem and related psychological problems, stigmatized individuals may experience lifelong negative consequences in education, employment, promotion, and social acceptance. Such individuals are also less likely than others to seek or receive the health care or specialized treatments they need.

Since Goffman’s seminal work, stigma has come to be recognized as an important area of scientific inquiry. Stigma and its behavioral manifestation, discrimination, negatively affect health, both physically and mentally, of more than one billion of the world’s population (Wahl, 1999; Weiss, Jadhav, Raguram, Vounatsou, & Littlewood, 2001). Moreover, stigma and discrimination are especially prevalent in large segments of the populations in low- to moderate-income (developing) countries and in marginalized groups in high-income (developed) nations (Ustun, Rehm, Chatterji, Saxena, Trotter, Room, Bickenbach, et al., 1999). If stigma could be reduced, the well-being and health of millions could be improved.