Emotional difficulties and experiences of stigma among persons with lymphatic filariasis in Plateau State, Nigeria.
Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a chronic and often disfiguring condition that predominantly affects the rural poor and leads to social exclusion, stigma, and discrimination. Little is currently known about the emotional difficulties and stigma experiences among persons living with LF in Nigeria. Our study evaluated the emotional difficulties and stigma experienced by persons with LF in Plateau State, Nigeria. We utilized a combination of qualitative data instruments comprising focus group discussions, McGill’s Illness Narrative Interviews, and key informant interviews. We transcribed and analyzed the data using a combination of inductive and deductive coding approaches. Sixtynine respondents were interviewed: 37 females and 32 males. The prevalent community perception of LF was the belief that it was a spiritual problem. Emotional reactions included feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger, frustration, worry, and suicidal ideation. These experiences, including those of stigma, discrimination, and social exclusion, culminated in difficulties with occupational functioning, marital life, and community participation. Our findings highlight the value of a rights-based approach that emphasizes state and non-state actors’ need to provide access to the highest attainable standard of health, including mental health, and to protect persons with LF from stigma, discrimination, and social exclusion.