Practise Lateral Kindness to Help Reduce Stigma and Fear of COVID-19


​​​Anyone can get it, and no one should be stigmatized for it!​​

​A message from Dr. Shannon McDonald, FNHA Acting Chief Medical Officer

Help fight stigma about COVID-19. Download our COVID-19 Kindness Poster for sharin​g in your community and online!

Most of us are doing our best to follow public health recommendations like physical distancing and frequent handwashing during this pandemic, and that is excellent. (Keep up the good work!) But did you know there are other very important things we as Indigenous people can do to help each other get through COVID-19 – and to help reduce its impact on our communities? Although perhaps not as obvious, practising lateral kindness is actually an essential part of nurturing and maintaining public health.

What are Lateral Kindness and Lateral Violence?

Lateral kindness is an approach to address lateral violence based on Indigenous values, which promote social harmony and healthy relationships. Lateral violence includes bullying, harassing, gossiping about or stigmatizing others, as well as other unkind behaviours. Lateral violence shows up in very painful ways among Indigenous people because of the impacts of colonization, racism, and intergenerational trauma. Experiencing lateral violence may cause people to be angry, depressed or stressed, which may lead to violent behaviours or substance use. In the context of COVID-19, people may feel they have to hide their illness to avoid discrimination and may put off seeking health care immediately.

Show Kindness and Stay Connected!


​Since any one of us could get COVID-19, regardless of how careful we are being, it is important to remember how we would want to be treated if we or our loved ones were to be affected. We also need to keep in mind that the virus is the enemy -- not people with COVID-19! All people should feel safe and supported in their communities, especially if they're sick.

Fortunately, every one of us has the power to help practise and promote lateral kindness and stop lateral violence, including stigma related to COVID-19. Here are some of the ways we can do this:

 Get your facts from reliable sources like the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and public health authorities like the First Nations Health Authority (not from Dr. Google or other non-experts)! Then share accurate information about how the virus spreads with others in your community. Education is one of the most important tools to fight stigma. 

 Support and show empathy for those affected! Phone, video call or text friends, neighbours and co-workers – especially those who have been sick -- to check in on them. Talk openly about the challenges we are all facing during the pandemic, as this can help others feel they are not so alone and can promote positive coping and mental well-being.

 Realize that getting COVID-19 is not a matter of who didn't wash their hands long enough, who touched their face too much, or who didn't physically distance enough. These are necessary measures to take, but we could still do everything right and become infected with COVID-19. There is no “fault" when it comes to COVID-19!​

 Speak out against negative behaviours, including negative statements on social media about groups of people.

 Be cautious about the images or messages you share relating to COVID-19. Make sure they do not reinforce stereotypes.

 Thank and show support for health care workers and responders. They should be praised and not stigmatized for having been in contact with COVID-19 patients.

For more information about practising lateral kindness, read the Declaration of Lateral Kindness and read the "Let’s use Lateral Kindness to lift each other up" message here(Note: Photo was taken prior to current physical distancing recommen​dations.​)

Download our COVID-19 Kindness Poster for sharing in your community and online!


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