Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario


  • Stigma is “a social process, experienced or anticipated, characterized by exclusion, rejection, blame or devaluation that results from experience or reasonable anticipation of an adverse social judgment about a person or group” (Martin & Johnston, 2007, p. 8).  Stigma can contribute to a host of adverse outcomes for people, including poor physical and mental health (Livingstone et al., 2012).
  • Prejudices are fostered by negative stereotypes, which are associated with stigmatization and create the conditions for discrimination.
  • Ontario Human Rights Code (Government of Ontario, 2012) prohibits discrimination against individuals on a number of protected grounds in protected social areas (e.g., employment; accommodation; goods, services, and facilities). The protected grounds include but are not limited to age, ancestry, place of origin, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identify, gender expression, marital status, family status, and disability (i.e. physical disabilities, mental health issues, and severe substance abuse and dependence).
  • Health-care providers need to be cognizant of their attitudes and behaviour when working with clients who use substances; to understand the ethical, professional, and legal implications of discrimination; and to engage in reflective practice in order to provide appropriate care to all clients.
Addiction and Mental Health
Engaging Clients who Use Substances
Background Information