The Role of Stigma in the Mental Health of Sex Workers
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Sex workers are exposed to a significant amount of stigma, discrimination, and violence simply due to their occupation. The purpose of this capstone is to examine how stigma impacts the mental health of sex workers using a literature review of academic articles. This capstone aims to contribute to the body of knowledge surrounding stigma in counselling for sex workers; discuss myths about female sex workers that perpetuate stereotypes; examine barriers that hinder access to mental health services; suggest how counsellors can provide more culturally competent and sensitive services towards this population; and how counsellors may create interventions that will aid sex workers in overcoming barriers to accessing treatment. What can be concluded from the literature review is that mental health problems are prevalent among sex workers and high when compared to the general population. Additionally, the role of stigmatization in the mental health of sex workers is arguably the most prevalent and harmful issue in the sex work community. The fear of being stigmatized acts as a barrier to seeking mental health services and many sex workers delay or forgo seeking care, which may have potentially disastrous effects on their health. The implications of the literature review part of this capstone are that sex work exists in a society which both develops and perpetuates the stigma that surrounds the industry and the women that work within it. As counsellors, it is important to recognize the needs and challenges which are faced by sex workers in order to better serve this population.