Public health emergencies and infectious disease outbreaks, like COVID-19, can be very stressful for individuals and communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward people, places, or things. Stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, certain professions, like healthcare workers and emergency responders, and towards a person after they have been released from COVID-19 isolation even though they are not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others.

This stigma hurts everyone by creating fear or anger towards other people. It can greatly affect the emotional and mental health of those groups being stigmatized along with the communities in which they live.  Everyone can help stop stigma associated with COVID-19 by sharing these facts with others:

  • For most people, the immediate risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID is thought to be low
  • Diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity
  • Someone who has completed quarantine or has been released from isolation does not pose a risk of infection to other people
  • There are simple things you can do to help keep yourself and others healthy like, washing your hands, staying home when you are sick, covering your cough and sneeze, avoiding large gatherings, and practicing physical distancing
  • You can help slow the spread of COVID-19 by knowing the signs and symptoms and getting tested if you have any symptoms or have been identified as a close contact of a positive case.

Stopping stigma and helping yourself and others cope with stress is important in making communities and community members stronger and resilient. Some ways to cope with stress during this difficult time include:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate, try to eat healthy, well- balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

For more information visit coping/reducing-stigma.html or call the Forest County Health Department with any questions or concerns at 715-478-3371.

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