Reducing stigma

Chris Schneider wants to show people how to think, not what to think.

This Assistant Professor of Sociology from UBC Okanagan especially wants students, and society at large, to think critically about issues like crime, stigma, and media influences. In short, he wants us to question where we get our beliefs and how those beliefs influence our choices.

“Media are a dominant social institution, one that operates as a window for many into the world of crime,” says Dr. Schneider. “Most of us are not directly involved in crime, interacting with the police or committing crimes. Yet most of us have an idea of how these things work. Media can influence how we think about and respond to crime.”

This passion for public engagement around critical thinking was what led to the invitation for Schneider to join the Board of Directors of the John Howard Society, a United Way Community Partner Charity that works to reintegrate the most marginalized citizens back into the community.

On September 26th, the John Howard Society and Dr. Schneider will be hosting a community forum titled Building Healthy Communities ~ Combating Fear and Stigma, Eliminating Barriers and Promoting Success for Multi-Needs Individuals.

More information can be found here.

It’s a long title, but a simple objective. The John Howard Society wants the public to understand that their clients can be successful and contributing members of society, if people question the stereotypes and perceptions that they have about this marginalized population.

John Howard Society staff constantly battle the misconception that their programs only serve people who are using drugs and committing crimes. In fact, many of their clients are people who have been simply out of the work force for an extended period of time, and who have encountered barriers in their lives. In plain language, these are the people who were dealt the toughest hand in life, and who want to work, raise families and contribute to society.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting many John Howard Society clients in my time at United Way. Some of them did not have good role models and support growing up, but were finally getting that support in programs like the Cardington Place apartments. Others had been out of the workforce raising children, and were participating in job training programs like the One Cup at a Time Café.

“Without organizations like the John Howard Society, there would be less opportunities for people to acquire relevant job skills, social skills and important community support,” says Dr. Schneider. In his address, Schneider will focus on how to dig a little deeper into why people are afraid of crime, a process that includes critically examining and questioning the influence of media.

United Way is proud to sponsor the Building Healthy Communities Forum on September 26, and we hope that many members of the community will join us in what promises to be an eye-opening discussion about working together to support inclusiveness.

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About the Author

The mission of United Way is to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action.

We call this our Community Impact Mission. Community impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to the quality of life in Canadian communities, by addressing not just the symptoms of problems but also getting at the root causes. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions.

United Way is achieving this mission by moving people from poverty to possibility, promoting healthy people and strong communities, and supporting all that kids can be.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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