Final report published: Lived experiences of stigma and discrimination

The DruGS team’s newly published report finds stigma is an important impediment to healthcare access for people exiting inpatient withdrawal management services.

You can find a copy of the report here

Final report: Lived experiences of stigma and discrimination among people accessing South Western Sydney Local Health District Drug Health Services presents findings from interviews conducted with 20 people who had recently used an inpatient withdrawal management service in Australia. Aiming to generate new insights into healthcare experiences of people recently leaving inpatient withdrawal management services, the project on which the report is based investigated how stigma shapes engagement with healthcare. While its aim was to develop strategies to improve healthcare services, the recommendations set out in this report may have implications for other contexts too.

As Project leader Professor Suzanne Fraser explains,

While some of our participants did describe positive healthcare experiences, these experiences weren’t sufficiently consistent to be perceived as routine. Instead, many of the people we interviewed recalled regularly having poor experiences, and basic levels of care were interpreted as exceptional. Conducting this project enabled us to make considered recommendations to address this issue.

As the report explains, stigma was encountered in hospitals, general practice clinics, and alcohol and other drug treatment services, as well as within families. Importantly, participants’ extensive experiences of stigma discouraged engagement with services and fostered expectations of poor treatment. These findings suggest healthcare workers need to use targeted strategies to gain the trust of people who consume alcohol and other drugs, and more broadly respond in more sensitive ways to their efforts to engage.

Included in the report are 10 recommendations to tackle stigma within health services, improve healthcare access following inpatient withdrawal management, and more generally improve healthcare experiences.

The research presented in this report was undertaken by researchers from La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society in collaboration with researchers from South Western Sydney Local Health District Drug Health Services. Funded by South Western Sydney Local Health District Drug Health Services, this project was undertaken between late 2018 and mid 2019.

The project investigator team comprised:

  • Professor Suzanne Fraser (ARCSHS, La Trobe University)
  • Dr Adrian Farrugia (ARCSHS, La Trobe University)
  • Dr Michael Edwards (South Western Sydney Local Health District)
  • Ms Stephanie Hocking (South Western Sydney Local Health District)