Factors influencing the mental wellbeing of persons affected by leprosy in Far-Western Nepal
To investigate factors that influence the mental wellbeing of persons affected by leprosy in Far-Western Nepal.
The study used a cross-sectional design with a qualitative approach. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions covering topics such as feelings towards and experiences with leprosy, mental wellbeing, knowledge about leprosy, social life, community, culture and future outlook were employed. The data were analysed using Framework Analysis and Thematic Open Analysis.
A total of 25 persons affected by leprosy were included in the in-depth interviews and 13 persons participated in focus group discussions. We found that participants often experienced stigma and/or mental distress. Participants reported physical weakness or pain, activity limitations, worries about their disease and its implications, feelings of shame, suicidal thoughts, and perceived and/or internalised stigma. Factors influencing mental wellbeing included discrimination, social support, religion, participation (restrictions), (in)ability to work, community attitudes, knowledge of leprosy and cultural beliefs about the disease.
This study revealed that the majority of participants faced leprosy-related stigma, physical discomfort, restrictions in social participation and mental distress. We recommend the development of interventions such as counselling after diagnosis with leprosy, increasing leprosy awareness and knowledge, addressing negative attitudes and beliefs in the community and stimulating social participation.