Stigma, anxiety and depression 

Leprosy is not just a disease which affects the skin and nerves – the damage is often felt on a much deeper level in areas that you cannot see from the outside. This unseen damage relates to mental health and studies show that up to 50% of people affected by leprosy will face depression, anxiety and even have thoughts of suicide.

Due poor health education, misunderstanding and incorrect beliefs, leprosy often goes hand-in-hand with stigma and discrimination. Sadly, this has a profound effect on people affected by leprosy, where they are often cast out of their communities – isolated from their friends, family, work or school. As a result, people often hide themselves away from society, leading to feelings of severe isolation and low self-esteem.

Sonia's story

Sonia Khatun lives with her parents and daughter in a small village outside of Sirajgonj in Bangladesh. She’s become a respected member of the community, empowering other women like her to learn a skill and support themselves.

But it hasn’t always been this way. Sonia had a long struggle to get to where she is today after experiencing depression after her leprosy diagnosis. 

Read on to find out how Sonia overcame depression with the unity of our self-help groups.