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The word stigma originates from the Greek word and was similar to a branding or tattoo that physically marked a person so that they could be avoided due to their morally- questionable behaviour, their possible mental illness, their criminal history and so on. It later came to be associated with any personal attributes that attracted attention or became the focus of humiliating scorn.
Stigma is thought to be an evolutionary concept that developed from necessity and the 'survival of the fittest.'
stigmatizing people who were perceived as unable to contribute to the group's survival, or who were seen as threats to its well-being, were stigmatized in order to justify being forced out or being isolated.
Some 'groups' are universally stigmatized, such as those with mental illness or of a more flippant nature, those with ginger hair but some stigmas are more culturally motivated and exist in particular cultures such as the position of women in a society or the preference for sons over daughters in some tribal centres.
As it relates to correctional counseling, the stigma attached to the actual offence needs to be defined separately to enable the offender to effectively benefit. Correctional counseling is after all designed to remove preconceptions, not only in the minds of the general public but also to the benefit of the offender who requires the counseling.
Stigma is all about expectations and anyone within a group to which stigma is attached needs to be convinced that stigma is more of a psychological concept and is not a physical imperfection - it can be cured!
Unfortunately though, stigma itself creates stress - especially for those undergoing correctional counseling for whom image is often crucial to their very survival. Being seen with the 'enemy' can cause so much stress that even mental illness can develop if not managed.
If stigma is not managed it can adversely affect a person's accessibility to education and other opportunities such as employment. Society's fear whether rational or not may cause an offender to lie about his situation due to the stigma attached to it which in itself creates a host of problems and in particular trust issues.
A viscious cycle can result confirming that the whole concept of stigma and how to deal with it should not be ignored and should form part of any rehabilitation process .
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