The resources available in this section of the InfoNTD website represent a snapshot of the increasing interest in the links between mental health, stigma, and NTDs. More broadly, this reflects a recognition of the importance of considering quality of life and wellbeing in programming related to NTDs. Mental health, then, is a cross-cutting issue. It is relevant to all aspects of the experience of people who engage with services, and who need to deal with the negative attitudes of, and sometimes social exclusion from, the communities in which they live. Stigma is a widely recognised term, and defined as a social process that is “experienced or anticipated, characterized by exclusion, rejection, blame or devaluation, that results from experience, perception, or reasonable anticipation of an adverse social judgment about a person or group”. Prejudice, negative attitudes and discrimination are part of stigma.
Stigma and discrimination, and its mental health consequences affect many NTDs. The prejudice, stigmatization and discrimination that people experience can be more limiting than the condition itself. It may have social, psychological and health-related consequences. Social exclusion is a common consequence, including reduced education and work opportunities, which in turn lead to or may aggravate poverty and may reduce marriage prospects, for example. One common consequence is an effect on mental health, which may include low self-esteem, depression and even suicide.
The level of comorbidity between NTDs and mental health problems has not been adequately recognised in most estimates of illness burden to date. For example, the burden of disease associated with lymphatic filariasis may be around twice as high if comorbid depressive illness is taken into account.