Stigma Guide
We are all in this together

The COVID-19 pandemic can cause stress on people and communities. It can lead to individuals experiencing social stigma, exclusion, marginalization, mental health issues and discrimination. Lack of understanding about COVID-19 has sparked feelings of fear or anger towards others and unfair treatment against a number of groups, including:

  • people who have COVID-19
  • people who have symptoms of COVID-19
  • health care, front-line and essential workers
  • people from countries where the virus originated from
  • people who have recently travelled or returned to Canada from another country
  • people from communities, cultures, or industries where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred
  • people who may not follow recommended public health measures

Stigma and discrimination are known barriers that prevent people from getting tested or accessing the care, treatment and support they need. People who have experienced stigma and discrimination throughout their life (e.g., racialized groups, people with mental illness or disability, members of LGBTQ2IA+ communities) may not have access to protective resources during a pandemic, like a safe home to isolate or quarantine when ill, which may introduce additional challenges.

Stigma and discrimination can be dangerous and harmful to individuals and communities by:

  • exposing people to high levels of guilt and stress
  • disempowering people who cannot control their living, working, or social circumstances
  • creating divisions within communities
  • causing people to delay or avoid health services and contacting health authorities
  • making it harder to monitor, stop or slow outbreaks
  • discouraging people from being tested or quarantined
  • making it harder to trace and notify people who may have come into contact with COVID-19 (contact tracing)

We can all do our part to reduce stigma around COVID-19. Even people without symptoms can test positive for COVID-19. This includes people who have not yet developed symptoms (pre-symptomatic) and may never develop symptoms (asymptomatic). That is why it is important to:

Say… Instead of…
COVID-19; Coronavirus The virus from Asia/China/Wuhan
People who may have COVID-19 Suspected cases of COVID-19
People who have COVID-19,
People being treated for COVID-19
COVID-19 cases or victims

Mental health and family violence support services are available to you, such as the Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support portal and the Stop Family Violence webpages.

Learn and share the facts

Share inspiring stories about those who have recovered from COVID-19, and about community heroes – health care workers, community service providers, grocery store employees, delivery people, long-term care home workers and first responders – who provide support to the population and care for those who are ill.

Get accurate information about COVID-19 from trustworthy sources, such as Canada.ca/coronavirus, your local or provincial/territorial public health authority, or a nursing station in a First Nation community.