Reducing the stigma associated with dementia: approaches and goals

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Stigma is a state of social disgrace, which marks an individual as discreditable or inferior in some way. The diagnosis of dementia, like other mental illnesses, carries significant stigma, partly due to cultural beliefs about etiology but also due to the unsocial behaviors that can result from cognitive impairment. Stigma not only affects self-esteem and causes distress, but affects social inclusion and can delay diagnosis of dementia. In order to optimize the uptake of early intervention healthcare initiatives and improve outcomes, we need to explore the effectiveness of antistigma interventions. Reducing stigma may be achieved through education, protest against current inequalities and contact with people who have dementia. Successful interventions are likely to involve a multifaceted approach that tackles self-stigma as well as public perceptions. Future research should explore the creation of culturally sensitive antistigma interventions and examine which aspects of these programs are most effective and easiest to implement.

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