#WorldLeprosyDay: Half of the leprosy patients in Maha are suffering from depression

One of two patients, undergoing leprosy treatment, is suffering from depression or mental illness. Experts say the major contributory factor is discrimination from society. On the eve of the #WorldLeprosyDay, My Medical Mantra spoke to the policymakers to understand what force the patients to slip into depression and what measures they are taking to eradicate leprosy

Man with leprosy
Leprosy awareness is crucial for early detection
  • Every year around 400 new cases of leprosy are reported in Mumbai. Moreover, India contributes to 60% of the new leprosy cases detected across the world.
  • Maharashtra witnesses 15,000 new leprosy cases every year. One in every two patients in Maharashtra is suffering from acute depression.
  • The feeling of loneliness, deserted by the family and society are some of the major reasons which force the person suffering from leprosy to slip into depression.

In India, leprosy is still considered and treated as a taboo. The family and the society abstain from the person who has leprosy. The patient is forced to stay alone, and deal with life. Due to which, the number of leprosy patients, suffering from depression, is rising.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Raju Jodhkar, Director (Leprosy), Maharashtra Health Services, said, “People those who have leprosy face discrimination. They are treated inappropriately by society and are left to live their life alone. That’s when the feeling of loneliness grabs the mind, and the person starts slipping into depression. One out of two patients is suffering from depression.”

“The most worrying thing is, the number of patients suffering from depression due to leprosy is rising. The cases of depression have already at par with the new cases which are detected,” explained Dr Jodhkar.

Every year, Mumbai witnesses over 400 new leprosy cases, and in Maharashtra, the number reported is around 15,000. The union government has set a target to eradicate leprosy by 2020.

Dr Jodhkar further added, “Compared to men, the cases of depression are rising among females. They lose their job, family and friends desert them. They can’t even marry, and it takes a toll on their mind as well.”

Recently, the government launched a drive – SPARSH, to spread awareness about leprosy. The motive of the campaign was to clear the myths which are deeply embedded in the people’s minds.

Leprosy can be treated with timely treatment and management. However, people are not aware of this. First, the myths about leprosy are needed to be eradicated then we can eradicate leprosy. If the family supports, the patient will not slip into depression and his recovery will be very good,” added Dr Jodhkar.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Atul Shah, Plastic Surgeon, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai, stated,“The last Sunday of January is celebrated as anti-leprosy day throughout the world, and January 30 is observed as leprosy eradicaion day in India. The next fifteen days following this date is observed as leprosy awareness fortnight. Leprosy is a curable disease and it can be treated by using the Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) approach.”

Dr Shah added, “People need to change their mind-set toward leprosy-affected people. Society must stop thinking that leprosy is a curse or a punishment of a previous birth. Generally, we can say that annually there are around1.25 thousand new cases which are found in India. That is about 60 per cent of the world’s leprosy cases are accounted for in India.”

Swapnil Jadhav, a social worker, said, “One of the reasons behind the rise in leprosy cases is that the patient himself starts remaining aloof and alone. Patients try and hide their disease from people due to social stigma. If more and more leprosy patients come to into the mainstream, the attitude of the people will change.”

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