‘Young, poor men most affected by stigmatisation when using social services’

Young, poor men are the most stigmatised by health and social services, it has emerged.

A study of Limerick’s poorest residents has found stigmatisation is putting people off from using services to better their lives and young men are the worst affected.

Study co-author, Professor Orla Madden, from the University of Limerick, said stigmatisation was a particularly big problem for young, poor men. “What you find in a group of poor people is that those most stigmatised are young men and we would be particularly worried about that,” she said.

The qualitative study was based on an analysis of 20 individual and group interviews with residents, community workers, and statutory service providers.

In the interviews, all three groups recounted their experiences of stigmatisation of Limerick’s disadvantaged regeneration communities.

The interviews endorsed the negative stereotypes that distinguished the communities as separate and anti- social. It found that the trust between service users and providers was undermined and led to residents not accessing the services available to them.

“They respond by either hiding their identities, disengaging from services or developing coping mechanisms to deal with discrimination,” the study states.

One resident said that although he had only recently needed to use a service, he was unnecessarily questioned by the provider.

Prof Madden from UL’s department of psychology, said stigmatisation of those from the most disadvantaged communities could be described as a social curse.

“Instead of facilitating and helping those in most need, services can become a site of tension and hostility.

“Tackling stigma will help develop a sense of shared identity and create more positive interactions between communities and their service providers,” she said.

People needed to know that prejudice within health and social services was being challenged and they could expect fair and respectful treatment.

The study, funded by the Irish Research Council, was published in the international Journal of community and Applied social Psychology.


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