Psychosocial Aspects of Hansen’s Disease
Being diagnosed with Hansen’s disease is often a turning point in an individual’s life. It is often experienced as a major shock, and people may experience a range of negative feelings such as denial, fear, sadness, shame, loss of control, and concerns about the future. If people have visible impairments and/or experience social stigma, this can be difficult to cope with and may negatively affect people’s mental wellbeing. Studies show that depression and anxiety are very common among persons affected. The negative impact on mental health is a long-neglected aspect of leprosy work. The way persons affected adjust depends on personal and environmental factors, but also on the manifestation and severity of the disease. Many people will try to hide their disease or isolate themselves. In addition, while some people find comfort and hope in their faith and spiritual practices, others may lose their faith. Social support plays a vital role in adapting to a life with Hansen’s disease and has a positive impact on people’s mental wellbeing. Interventions aimed at improving people’s mental wellbeing are crucial, given the profound impact the disease can have on this. These include peer or family counselling, individual or group therapy, strengthening social support networks, champions, socioeconomic empowerment, and strengthening resilience.