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By McKenzie Roller, Baylee Materia, Ashley Habig, and W. Harrison Hayes


Angela M. Parcesepe & Leopolodo J. Cabassa define stigma as “a set of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate individuals to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people.” These pervasive perceptions find their way into every aspect of the healthcare system, influencing patients’ experience of both mental and physical illness, clinicians’ approach to treatment, and the system’s overall structure. Stigma can have a wide variety of causes and is upheld by social, structural, and cultural norms. This playlist examines the prevalence of stigma in the health care system in North Carolina, specifically in relation to access to care for people experiencing mental health challenges, mental health experiences in rural versus urban communities, health literacy, and access to care more broadly.

In the playlist above, individuals from across North Carolina share their stories through the Southern Oral History Project, highlighting how stigma impacted their own experience and relationship with health care. William Sessions shares how the stigma towards mental health in his community causes his grandmother to self-medicate through alcoholism. Nicholas Stratas shares his perception of how health care for mental illness has shifted throughout his professional career as a psychiatrist, highlighting the stigma that exists among clinicians. Denise Williams’ voice will be heard describing how her career in mental health originated at a rural group home, where mental health is a problem for every person of all backgrounds, locations, and ages, laying the foundation for her career dedicated to mental health advocacy, fighting stigma. Marie Flynn-Vargo states how her experience working in a rural group home opened her eyes to the mistreatment and stigma the workers have towards those with mental health issues, and how it angered her to witness that. Albrea Crowder – a medical case manager at CommWell Health in rural Dunn, NC – discusses her work involving HIV patients and the surprising level of HIV/AIDS ignorance she encounters on the job. Jannette Godwin, one of Crowder’s coworkers at CommWell Health, shares the reasons why HIV stigma is allowed to persist in rural areas, specifically mentioning poor sexual education and parental failings as major contributors. You will also hear from Bryd Nefertiti, a radio host and care-taker from Warren Country, who has had issues with the doctors properly communicating proper medication and treatment for her family. William Donaldson outlines the difficulties he has with affording his treatments and wonders how anyone who doesn’t have medicaid can afford it, and Barbara Brayboy reminisces on how she’s never had to deal with doctors as her community has always leaned toward the usage of at home remedies.

Student Essays

Mental Health Stigma in Rural vs Urban Areas

By Ashley Habig Stigma is a very prevalent problem in mental health care that does not get talked about often enough. Stigma is often rooted in experiences and cultures people are surrounded by growing up, but can be broken down … Read more

Stigma and Poor Health Literacy: An Examination of HIV Perceptions in North Carolina

By Baylee Materia “Well, it was pretty darn scary,” recalls Don Chaplin when asked about the early days of the HIV epidemic in North Carolina (Chaplin 0:34:45-0:34:50). An openly gay physician, Chaplin bore witness to an aggressive, unsympathetic social and … Read more

Stigma Towards Healthcare Systems and Providers

By Harrison Hayes Introduction “A cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate the general public to fear, reject, avoid and discriminate against people… Stigma is about disrespect. It is the use of negative labels to identify a person living with … Read more

The Impact of Stigma Towards Mental Health: Individuals & Systems

By McKenzie Roller In her interview with the Southern Oral History Project, Chasity Hargrove, a white woman from Newton Grove, NC, shares some details of her mother’s battle with mental illness. Hargrove describes how her mother “would try to medicate … Read more