This paper addresses the concept of chronic illness as a socially constructed experience of stigma. The stigma of having a chronic illness affects the person's self-concept, capacity to adapt to the illness and the quality of his/her social networks. Social stigma is a delegitimising social process derived from both popular and medical views of chronic illness. Based on research into the coping strategies of a range of people with long-term, serious chronic illnesses, the paper argues that government health policies and services in Australia can best help people with chronic illness by supporting their self-help groups and community-based activities.
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