Stigma and mental health: The curious case of COVID-19

  • Connie J. Snider Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Resource Centre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Maureen P. Flaherty University of Mannitoba, Canada
Keywords: peacebuilding, COVID-19, stigma, dementia, mental illness, mental health


Introduction: This article considers the impact of COVID-19 on stigma and mental health across the life spectrum and the ways that people access services.

Purpose: To explore the ways that a pandemic (COVID-19) has changed/shifted the relationship between mental illness or mental ill health and stigma across the life spectrum and call to re-focus resources on sustainable healthy societies, building cultures of peace.

Methodology: A literature search was employed, combined with informal interviews and observation.

Results and Discussion: On the one hand, the pandemic has opened public discussion of mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression, reducing some of the stigma attached as the experience is more common amongst people who have not previously declared mental health challenges. On the other hand, people previously experiencing mental ill health have mostly had that health challenge exacerbated by the pandemic. With fewer resources available, and changes in service delivery to largely on-line resources, the reduction in stigma has not meant better mental health care and services, but rather further marginalized some of the population. Cultures of peace are inclusive and provide space for full growth of all citizens, in contrast to reactive approaches now more readily applied. Mental health services are a basic right for all people and should be considered as such in all planned health strategies.

Limitations: The article focuses on literature review, anecdotal and observation and is focused over a short term, in North America.  It is a preliminary study.

Strengths: As a preliminary study, the article highlights an emergent and present dilemma. It also highlights the need for a much more holistic, global approach to mental health and wellbeing across the lifespan.

Conclusion: While there are calls for national strategies for mental health services and services for people with dementia, in particular, there is still a need to take a more holistic approach to mental health as part of a whole health strategy to support human dignity and inclusion across the lifespan

Author Biography

Maureen P. Flaherty, University of Mannitoba, Canada

Peace & Conflict Studies, Acting Director, Centre for Ukrainian Canadian Studies, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


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Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Resource Centre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
How to Cite
Snider, C. J., & Flaherty, M. P. (2020). Stigma and mental health: The curious case of COVID-19. Mental Health: Global Challenges Journal, 3(1), 27 - 32.