Group of people sit together on the floor. One man is living with Lymphatic filariasis

Improving mental health support for people with Neglected Tropical Diseases

Conditions like leprosy, lymphatic filariasis and Buruli Ulcer, collectively known as “skin Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)”, often cause visible changes and physical impairments such as clawed hands, drop foot and nerve damage (leprosy), abnormal swelling of body parts (lymphatic filiariasis) and aggressive skin ulcers.

Because of the visible physical differences, many people living with these conditions face stigma, discrimination and rejection which results in poor mental health, particularly depression and anxiety. Most people affected by skin NTDs live in poor, rural areas, with no access to the mental health care they need.

Our research project (2020-2021), in partnership with The Leprosy Mission Nigeria and University of Jos, aimed to improve support for people affected by skin NTDs in Nigeria, by:

  • Training frontline health workers to identify depression and anxiety among those with visible signs of skin NTDs
  • Embedding skills in the primary care system so that community health centres are able to provide quality care for people with NTDs and mental health problems
  • Piloting the approach set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its NTD and Mental Health guide (open link in new tab), to support its development and help encourage and equip organisations working to support the mental health needs of people living with these neglected conditions.

Ultimately, integrating psychosocial and mental health support and care into local services for people with NTDs and their families, along with community awareness raising, is likely to reduce stigma, improve well-being and encourage social inclusion.

UK aid logoThis project received financial support from the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (COR-NTD), through The Task Force for Global Health (TFGH) and is funded by UK aid from the British government.


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