Reducing the stigma through language and pictures

Johan De Schepper

Referentiepersoon dementie
Staff member
Table of contents
  1. Reducing the stigma through language and pictures
  1. Stigma
Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that's thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage (a negative stereotype). Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs towards people who have a mental health condition are common.

People living with dementia and people supporting someone with dementia are often stigmatized. The stigma is caused by fear and lack of awareness and understanding about the disease[1]. The way dementia comes into the picture in society and how we use language about dementia influences our perception of dementia. The general image of dementia is negative and focuses mainly on the last phase of dementia.[2] The words we use for this have an impact on how people with dementia are viewed and treated in the community. It also has a direct impact on people with dementia. It can affect their self-esteem, mood, and feelings of happiness or depression. Words with a negative connotation can leave a deep impact on the person with dementia and their caregivers.[3]

In this way, through the self-fulfilling prophecy, people with dementia can get the feeling that they are not of value, that they are a burden to society. This also has an influence on the informal caregivers who make their story known less and less. In this way, the isolation of people with dementia and their informal carers increases even more.[4] Aid workers have an important role to play in breaking this vicious circle. By increasing knowledge about dementia, by giving a voice to people with dementia and by talking about dementia differently, we can reduce this stigma and give people with dementia and their caregivers the feeling that they belong in society and that their experiences are taken seriously.

The MOOC of MYH4D aims to increase knowledge about dementia. Giving a voice to people with dementia is highlighted in the second part of this COP.

Here we mainly want to focus on the use of language and the image created in the media . About language, we can say, it has to be: accurate, respectful, inclusive, empowering, non-stigmatising.[5] The image in the media should be one of diversity with an emphasis on the possibilities that people with dementia have.

As a widely used example, but important, we no longer speak of demented people but of people with dementia. People with dementia are in the first place individuals with their own life history, personality, social contacts, ... . The condition of dementia will have an impact but it is not the defining aspect of their life.

Another example concerns the visualisation of people with dementia. The Belgian web-side ‘vergeet dementia, onthou mens’ has made an image bank available. Images about dementia, people with dementia can be freely used in publications. The aim is to influence the image of living with dementia. Beelden van personen met dementie | Onthou Mens

In this CoP we would like to share examples, good practices to reduce the stigma on dementia through language and images. For this we need your cooperation!