Challenging Health Stigma - Rude2Respect Campaign

Stigma – a judgment of lower status – is often attached by other people to those who are dealing with health differences. Health-related stigma is communicated in hundreds of painful ways – an intrusive stare, an openly avoided encounter, a thoughtless or hurtful comment.  Whether these things are done consciously or not, these actions express attitudes that erode one’s self-worth.  Stigma recognizes the health condition but ignores the person.

Stigma Hurts

There is no doubt that the stigma surrounding health conditions hurt.  You are not alone - there are millions of people on this same journey, coping with an enormous variety of health challenges that disrupt and change lives.   Health-related challenges can create a sense of isolation; a feeling of being forever different.  And when the health condition is stigmatized, the feelings of being alone and overwhelmed can be even greater.

Get Involved in Challenging Health Stigma

To address this type of stigma, the Simon Foundation for Continence recently launched Challenging Health Stigma - Rude2Respect.  This is a campaign to build awareness as to the impact of health-related stigma and to provide those being stigmatized with pathways to building resilience. The campaign's website and its Rude2Respect Facebook page, are designed to create a place to come together and challenge health stigma.

Rude2Respect is for everyone. It includes those who are experiencing health-related stigma and those who unknowingly contribute to health stigma.  The campaign is providing support, information, and suggestions for effective coping strategies that can help people regain their lives. It brings a new awareness and understanding to change behavior for those who are doing the stigmatizing.

The Rude2Respect website and Facebook page create opportunities for change and its power comes from you.  Your thoughts, experiences, and involvement will help enrich other lives as well as your own.  You will find resources and access to a platform where your voice can be heard in a dialogue that will raise national consciousness of health-related stigma and its impacts.

Challenge Others to Stop Health Stigma

How can you help? Participate in this endeavor by visiting the website's Challenge Wall.  Here you can write a personal message regarding how you'd like people to behave. And read the other challenges that have been left by others.

Stories of People with Health Differences

You can also read personal stories from people who have been stigmatized. Hear how they have dealt with stigma, both their defeats and victories.

One story on the website is from Clarinda (pictured to the right). Clarinda was just 15 when a youth worker walked into the YMCA and shot her. Nothing personal, it was just his initiation into a gang. He had to show he was unafraid to use a gun or to go to jail.  “The bullet (a dumdum bullet) went through my spine and then it blew up in my digestive system,” she says. “The doctor gave my parents zero chance that I would survive. That was almost 50 years ago.”  She credits an incredibly supportive social network in overcoming what is often a discriminatory environment. Read the rest of Clarinda's amazing story.

Resources for People with Stigmatized Health Conditions

There are educational resources available which include articles, videos, audio programs, and reference links. Rude2Respect has its very own video introducing Blue & Pink who portray the emotional journey of those with a health-related stigma.

 You can reach the Rude2Respect campaign by writing to

The Simon Foundation for Continence

Since 1982, The Simon Foundation for Continence has worked to remove the stigma surrounding incontinence. With the new Rude2Respect program, the Foundation is working with a growing network of other nonprofit organizations to champion an even greater goal – eliminating all health-related stigma.

The Foundation, located in Chicago, Illinois, USA, is a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is:

  • To bring the topic of incontinence into the open

  • Remove the stigma associated with incontinence

  • Provide help and hope to individuals with incontinence, their families and the professionals who provide their care

The Simon Foundation for Continence is the world’s oldest patient-led organization devoted exclusively to incontinence, having been founded in 1982. The Foundation’s mission is supported by an Advisory Board of professionals, many of whom have dedicated their careers to improving the clinical treatment of incontinence and advancing medical science through bladder and bowel research.