Reflection on Stigma and Social Inclusion
Stigma is the negative label being attached to a person or group of people who posits an unconventional way of living. More often than not, a stigmatized person is often shut away from the society in which s/he belongs. This social exclusion was seen to have contributed to high rates of mental and behavioral problems among socially excluded people (ABS as cited in “VicHealth,” 2005).
As I can see it, the results of stigma are discrimination, stereotyping, and labeling among others. Stigma is often attached to introverts, weird, prostitutes, old, criminals, and non-religious people, among others, thus excluding them from the society in which they are part of. From the report of VicHealth (2005) it was found out that people who were socially excluded have four to five times risk of dying tendencies-either through suicide or other means. A different study conducted by Wikinson and Marmot as cited in VicHealth (2005) stated that poverty could be one way by which a person would be isolated. By isolating the person, s/he gets a very limited support group and less likely to receive emotional anchors in times of stressing situations, which eventually contribute to greater depression. Thus, I agree then to Link and Phelan (2001) when they said, that stigma could affect the life chances of people-in sports, economic activity, leisure activities, mental well-being, in a negative way. In this manner, the mental state of a person, without his/her social network, is very shaky and thus may eventually break; breeding new kinds of mentally retarded and psychologically problematic people.
Social inclusion as I can see it is a way by which society deals with deviant behavior in the most rational, understanding, supportive, and broader sense of introspection. Society could better understand deviant behaviors by looking at its pattern, and the factors that dynamically affect those behaviors.
The emerging number of insane, criminals, and psychologically problematic people for instance, could be understood not as a mere mental distortion, rather, a phenomenon that come to exist because of social factor such as poverty. Because of poverty, they were stigmatized and isolated, and thus affects their life chances to earn a clean living, to live in a peaceful neighborhood, to outweigh the worries that they have through their involvement in a social group which they have trusted, and to have a wider social network that could support them in times of difficulty and stressing moments.
Thus, society would have to formulate laws, aid, and other means to uplift the lives of its people by generating more jobs, by showing them that the police and the government can be trusted, etc. Instead of socially isolating people away from their support groups because of stigma, the government and other concerned institutions should work hand in hand to involve these people, which are usually stigmatized in a larger social network. By involving oneself in a social network, the sense of trust among neighbors and friends within a given network would be cultivated. Thus, would contribute to a high sense of obligation, empathy, and self-esteem of a person, which in return would have a positive outcome on health and mental wellbeing. A person would now have a healthy disposition in times of difficulty instead of resorting to murky alternatives. Hence, social inclusion would breed people with respect on the differences of their fellow beings and people whose needs-physiological, emotional, social, psychological and even spiritual, are met in a most dignified means (“VicHealth,” 2005).
Link, Bruce & Phelan, Jo. (2001). Conceptualizing Stigma. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from
VicHealth. (2005). Social Inclusion: as a determinant of mental health and wellbeing. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from http://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/assets/contentFiles/Social_Inclusion_Final_Fact_sheet.pdf