Disrupting Stigma: How Understanding, Empathy, and Connection Can Improve Outcomes for Families Affected by Substance Use and Mental Disorders

Stigma specifically related to child abuse, neglect, and prenatal substance exposure affects the attitudes of healthcare and treatment professionals; child welfare and court professionals; social service agencies and workers; as well as family, friends, and most notably, the person with the substance use and/or mental disorder. Not only can negative attitudes create barriers for parents seeking help, but they
can also exacerbate existing disparities in treatment services and outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), the LGBTQ community, individuals living in poverty, and other underserved groups. If left uncorrected, misperceptions and misinformation about substance use disorders (SUDs) can also lead to discrimination. Disrupting stigma requires practitioners to understand: 1) the factors that create and perpetuate it; 2) the history of stigma related to individuals affected by SUDs; and 3) stigma’s detrimental effects on children, parents, and family members.

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) prepared this brief to
support cross-system collaborative teams in their work to reduce stigma in interactions, expectations,
and policies affecting families. This brief provides several strategies, including how to intentionally
use language to: 1) fight stigma and 2) facilitate engagement with parents and family members
affected by SUDs. Information contained here stems from best practices in the field—gleaned from
experience working with relevant partners across the country—and a thorough review of literature
and materials cited from expert sources, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP),
and the Recovery Research Institute. For more information, see the bolded terms throughout the
brief that include links to tools and resources that delve deeper into each topic.

Download the report

Comments are closed.