This Mental Health Awareness Week, international charity Lepra is calling for greater awareness about the high percentage of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, which develop after people are diagnosed with leprosy or lymphatic filariasis. To mark the week, Lepra is celebrating launching a brand new project, Mental Motivators, in Bangladesh. The project encourages people affected by disability due to leprosy and lymphatic filariasis (LF) to help others within their community with mental health issues.
Lepra’s research has found that 53% of newly diagnosed cases of leprosy and LF result in the individual developing anxiety or depression, however mental health services for the rural population in Bangladesh is scarce.
Risk factors for depression and anxiety in the context of these diseases include disability, discrimination, prejudice, displacement, marriage status and unemployment.
In Bangladesh, Lepra currently coordinates self-care groups, bringing together those with leprosy and LF to learn physical care that helps members manage their disability.
Mental Motivators will be individuals selected from these self-care groups and will provide peer support to people with a disability. They will be trained in basic counselling skills, such as empathy and listening, and also on disability rights. Mental Motivators will support people who have indicated they would like someone to talk to, alongside pro-actively looking out for group members who seem to be struggling more than others, or who may seem withdrawn or unhappy.
Mental Motivators will be key agents in improving mental health and will provide an innovative initiative focused on the holistic needs of people affect by a disease. Mental Motivators will also act as a ‘signpost’ for their group, linking group members to employment and social opportunities.
Having good mental health is critical to being able to take good care of your physical health, and to engage constructively with others in the community.
Geoff Prescott, Chief Executive at Lepra says, “Leprosy is a mental health disaster. For us, Mental Health Week is about highlighting that 1 in 2 people suffer from mental health issues caused by leprosy and LF diagnosis. We are delighted to be launching our new Mental Motivators project, providing both physical and mental health care to those suffering from leprosy or LF.”