Social Stigma In Sub-Saharan Africa

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Stigma is a Greek word referring to markings that were tattooed, punctured or branded into the skin of slaves and other negatively valued people categorizing them as diseased or disgraced (Taylor, 2013). Today, the word stigma is more commonly used to describe the extreme disapproval of a person or group based on a characteristic which distinguishes them from other members of society. Stigma is a trans-cultural phenomenon with profound effects on the mental and physical health of people all over the world. It is one of the most common sources of distress expressed by people who attend sickness support groups and in Brain on Fire Susannah is no exception (Taylor, 2013). Undoubtedly, there are consequences for people with stigmatizing conditions.…show more content…
Though stigma is trans-cultural and many effects are constant between cultures, there are distinct behaviours. For example, in China many people view epilepsy as a hereditary, incurable disease which can result in difficulties marrying and having children, as well as having an overall low quality of life. These fears are substantiated by Chinese folk traditions which often results in a diminished social status for people with epilepsy (Li, 2010). In Sub-Saharan Africa, cultural beliefs can lead to severe discrimination. It is reported that people believe seizures to be contagious, spread by bodily fluids, feces or flatus expelled during a seizure. This fear of contagion creates a huge stigma, and sufferers experience the psychological and physical consequences of physical isolation and their community’s unwillingness to intervene in preventing injury (Baskind & Birbeck, 2005). Witchcraft, possession and curses are also cited as causal factors of seizures which intensify negative social consequences for the individual and their family who can be blamed for the condition (World Health Organization, 2006). People with epilepsy have reported being required to use separate dishes, utensils, sleeping quarters away from the household, being hidden from visitors, and even being denied donor food aid (Baskind & Birbeck,

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