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Mental wellbeing among people affected by leprosy in the Terai region, Nepal

The relationship between leprosy, stigma and poor mental health is well recognized. The overall objective of this study was to help improve mental wellbeing in people affected by leprosy by gaining more insight into what factors related to cultural, social and personal life influence mental wellbeing amongst people affected by leprosy in the Terai region, Nepal.

We adopted a qualitative approach with purposive sampling to include people affected by leprosy in the Terai region of Nepal. Fourteen people with various leprosy disability grades and two healthcare workers were recruited for in-depth interviews. We used a framework analysis method with characteristics of the Grounded Theory Approach. Predetermined themes were explored, and new themes brought up during the interviews were also analysed.

Leprosy-related stigma still persists in the Terai region, negatively influencing mental wellbeing. A higher disability grade can result in a poorer mental wellbeing. Additional key factors influencing mental wellbeing include: people’s feelings and experiences regarding leprosy, family and community, work and culture.

The mental wellbeing of the respondents was negatively influenced by direct and indirect consequences of being affected by leprosy. Stigma, disability grade, family, community, work and culture are very important factors that influence mental wellbeing in the Terai region, Nepal. We recommend that interventions should include a combination of strategies, including lay and peer counselling, socio-economic rehabilitation and involvement of community and family to improve the mental wellbeing of those affected. We also recommend using a holistic and gender-specific approach when developing these interventions.

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Journal Article
van Netten WJ
van Dorst M
Waltz M
Pandey B
Aley D
Choudhary R
van Brakel W