How Coronavirus is Being Stigmatized and How to Fight It

Published on: 16 Mar 2020
Clinically Reviewed by Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
coronavirus stigma

There seems to be some degree of stigma around many illnesses, whether physical or mental. Sadly, it seems as though cyber bullies online and Negative Nancys in person are stigmatizing people who have contracted coronavirus or whom these jerks even suspect may have the virus. Judging people’s health and personal decisions is nothing new, but we should be banding together to support one another rather than tearing each other down — during this time of crisis more than ever.

The Dos and Don’ts Around Coronavirus

If you do happen to contract COVID-19, know that it is not a moral failing, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed. If you don’t have the virus, try not to feed into the stigmas and rumors.

Here are some dos and don’ts surrounding the stigma of getting COVID-19.


Stay off of social media

It doesn’t matter if your feed is full of celebrities or family members or people you haven’t seen since high school. Everybody is posting the same thing: scary articles or their own two cents about coronavirus, including shaming those who are going out in public during the time when we should be social distancing. You don’t know their situation, however — they may be on their way to drop off food or provide care for an elderly relative. If the negativity is getting to you — stay off of social media. Get information from trusted sources, form your own opinions, and stay true to yourself. A social media cleanse is good for your mental health, during the coronavirus era and beyond.

Be a source of support

We need to be kind to each other — all the time, but especially now. We’re living in a period of such uncertainty and fear, and as we all know, a little kindness can go a long way. Many people are bullying others, and really, that’s not going to get us anywhere. Rather than shunning or shaming someone for their decisions, try to have a rational conversation, backed up with data from a credible source (like the CDC or WHO).

Practice self care

If there’s ever been a time for self care, it’s NOW! Especially if you’re stuck at home, you have no excuse to not spend some time taking care of your emotional wellbeing. Look at this quality time at home as a blessing in disguise. Now’s the time to finally do something good for your mental health.

Here are some ideas:

  • Meditate
    Watch guided meditations on Youtube or download a meditation app like Headspace
  • Journal
    Journal about anything and everything. You can use your journal as a brain dump to get all of your feelings out on paper, or, alternatively, you can write a gratitude list (Or, do both. I won’t stop you!)
  • Get creative
    Doing something creative is good for the soul — so whether you’re breaking out the coloring book and crayons or an old set of oil paints, get the creative juices flowing — it’ll feel cathartic
  • Home spa
    Take long hot baths (or showers) and just be

Talk to your therapist if you have one

This pandemic is (rightfully) causing a lot of anxiety, so don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you need it. While many mental health clinics and private practices are closed for the time being, call or email your therapist and see if they are offering telemedicine services where you can get therapy over the phone. If you’re already using online therapy, you’re all set!

If you don’t have a therapist and are feeling especially distraught, anxious, or depressed, send a text to the Crisis Text Line. Text HOME to 741741 and a crisis counselor will be there to text you back and help you out, for free!


Give the evil eye

If you’re still able to go out in public and you see someone sneeze or cough, don’t shoot them evil glares, or worse, say something rude to them. They could just have spring allergies or a seasonal cold. In cases like these, it’s a good idea to put yourself in their shoes and think how you would feel if you were coughing or sneezing in public (hopefully into your elbow) and people were staring at you like you had the plague? Even if they have coronavirus, glaring doesn’t help. Just don’t do it!

Say mean things

This goes both for in-person settings and online settings. As more and more cities are urging folks to stay home, people will inevitably be spending more time on social media. Go by the age old rule: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. The last thing we need is even more negativity on our timelines. Refrain from posting things that perpetuate the stigma or spread misconceptions surrounding COVID-19 regarding hygiene, morals, race, etc.

Be racist

As we know, sadly, there are still plenty of racists in 2020. Xenophobia and racism has been present from the onset of the Coronavirus outbreak, and it’s absolutely not right. We should not be prejudiced towards any country or point blame at an entire race for any health crises — ever. Actively work on being an ally.

Be too hard on yourself

If you do happen to get the virus, remember that it doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong. Getting COVID-19 is not a moral failing, and should you contract it, you don’t need to feel like a disappointment to society. Unfortunately, it’s possible to take all the necessary precautions and still fall ill. Sometimes even doing the best you can in a pandemic isn’t enough. Be kind to yourself and be rational. You aren’t dirty. You aren’t evil. There is no shame in getting a new virus that no human on earth seems to be immune to.

Continue to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, practice social distancing, and work from home if you can. We need to take care of ourselves physically and mentally during this time — and remember to be kind to others in the process.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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