Ecolink Institute
panel discussion
social stigma

Ecolink Institute hosts international panel discussion on "People First"

Panel members in action during the webinar

Ecolink Institute, an approved Training Provider of the Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Program hosted an online panel discussion on Social Stigma in connection with the International Drug Awareness Day on 27 June 2023 which underlined the need for reducing stigma at all levels.

The panel consisting international experts from Malaysia, Hongkong, and India were moderated by Global trainer and curriculum developer, Dr.Thirumagal V and attended by 100 delegates from nearly 20 countries. Dr.Thomas Scaria, Director, Ecolink Institute welcomed the guests and Ronnie Thomas, course coordinator proposed a vote of thanks.

Ashwin Thind, an addiction therapist from Malaysia opened the discussion by presenting the concept of people first, the need for using person centered  language, avoid labeling and understand addiction as a disease just like any other diseases. 

Grant Sanders from Hongkong stressed the need for equipping and supporting recovering persons to fight self stigma, which is sometimes stronger than structural stigma. He said therapists should consciously work on dealing with stigma and low self esteem of the patients as part of their empowering process

Vikash Sharma from Jemmu and Kashmir narrated his personal recovery and the challenges faced by him during recovery. He said he intensely felt the wrath of stigma during his recovery period and not during his addiction. It took nearly a decade to come out of this stigma and get connected to his society more closely, he said.

Dr. Siva Anoop Yella, a psychiatrist who is also  ICAP certified said together with his clients, even psychiatrists themselves suffer from social stigma. He said the medical fraternity need to open themselves to learning more about psycho social management of addiction, so that they can use "person first' languages while addressing persons affected by substance use disorder.

Fr.George Kannanthanam who spoke on religious perspective of social stigma said most religions discourage the use of mind altering substances as they interfere with their mood, thoughts, perceptions and behavior. He said churches have been actively involved in rehabilitation services and provide its institutions for prevention and rehabilitation services like hosting AA or NA meetings. He said religion should not only treat them but instill a hope in them to rebuild themselves.

Dr.Thirumagal moderated the sessions and stressed the need for developing a step by step program by addiction professionals to reduce stigma in recovery. Persons in recovery faces more issues with social stigma and it is "our duty to accompany them with a continuing care and empowerment to grow as productive persons with wellness and dignity", she said.

Ecolink is now organizing short courses among University students to empower students in prevention programs.

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