Physical Effects of Leprosy

Leprosy Mental Health: The Psychological Effects of Prejudice and Exclusion

Leprosy, a disease that has been misunderstood and stigmatized for centuries, carries with it a heavy emotional burden for those affected. Many patients grapple with feelings of shame, guilt, and hopelessness, often believing that their condition is a result of some personal failing or sin. This sense of guilt is further intensified by societal reactions, which often include fear, discrimination, and exclusion. The stigma surrounding leprosy has major implications for leprosy mental health, with many patients experiencing conditions like depression and anxiety.[1]

For instance, Sakshi, a leprosy patient, was so overwhelmed by her despair and guilt that she attempted suicide. Her story is not unique; many patients, faced with the stigma and isolation that comes with a leprosy diagnosis, contemplate or even attempt suicide.[2]

Abandonment and Isolation: The Social Stigma

The stigma associated with leprosy often leads to abandonment by family and friends. This is not only due to fear of the disease but also due to societal pressure and discrimination. Many patients are excommunicated from their communities when it becomes known that they have contracted leprosy.[3]

This isolation is not limited to the patients themselves. Even the children of leprosy patients are often spurned from society, further exacerbating the emotional distress experienced by those affected.

Mental Health Risks: Beyond the Physical Symptoms

The psychological impact of leprosy extends beyond feelings of guilt and isolation. Studies indicate that more than 30% of people affected by leprosy have mental health problems, emphasizing the importance of mental health care services in leprosy treatment.[4]

Depression and anxiety are common among leprosy patients, with women, those with lower levels of education, and those belonging to lower socio-economic statuses being particularly at risk. The stigma and discrimination associated with leprosy can also lead to a lower quality of life and increased risk of suicide.

GFA World, through its Reaching Friends Ministry, is actively working to bring understanding, hope, and healing to leprosy patients. By providing both prayer and medical treatment, GFA World is helping to change the negative mindset towards those with leprosy.

GFA World national missionaries involved in leprosy ministry have noted that young people, in particular, hide their condition due to fear of being ostracized from their families and communities. By providing support and education, GFA World is helping to combat this fear and encourage early treatment.

The fight against leprosy is not just about curing the physical disease; it’s also about eliminating the stigma and discrimination that come with it. You can join this fight by sponsoring a GFA World national missionary or giving towards GFA World’s leprosy ministry. Your support can help bring hope and healing to those affected by leprosy, changing their lives and their communities for the better.

Learn more about the physical effects of leprosy

[1] Somar, Pmw, M M Waltz, and W H van Brakel. “The Impact of Leprosy on the Mental Wellbeing of Leprosy-Affected Persons and Their Family Members – a Systematic Review.” Global Mental Health (Cambridge, England) 7 (June 9, 2020): e15.
[2] Psarris, Emily. “Leprosy: Misunderstandings and Stigma Keep it Alive.” GFA World, January 18, 2019.
[3] Singh, Gurvinder Pal. “Psychosocial Aspects of Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy).” Indian Dermatology Online Journal 3, no. 3 (September 2012): 166–70.
[4] Govindasamy, Karthikeyan, Immanuel Jacob, Raju Moturu Solomon, and Joydeepa Darlong. “Burden of Depression and Anxiety among Leprosy Affected and Associated Factors-A Cross Sectional Study from India.” PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 15, no. 1 (January 22, 2021): e0009030.