The International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations and the Neglected Tropical Diseases NGO Network will officially launch a new website on 11 June 2020 to bring about a better understanding on what stigma is, what can be done to reduce it and mitigate its impact.
Medical professionals, health and social welfare departments, non-governmental organisations and other agencies will now have easy access to information of how health-related stigma manifests and its association with mental wellbeing.
Goal of the Stigma Guides
The website is designed to increase awareness and understanding and help to strengthen the technical and relational skills required to handle stigma and its repercussions. The portal offers practical information and advice in four guides on training health workers or peer counsellors to provide Psychological First Aid, and training staff and volunteers to be aware of and show sensitivity toward the emotional needs of persons affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). The goal is to remove the taboo of speaking about mental health and to help end stigma.
“All NTDs, but especially leprosy, have been associated with the abuse and violation of countless women, men and children. And that is true whether these people had visible impairments or not. So, the barriers, the exclusion, the dehumanising attitudes of society, are not just about visible impairments or even about a disease… they are in the label. These guides can help to reduce the impact of these barriers,” said Geoff Warne, Chief Executive Officer of ILEP.
Importance of reducing health-related stigma
For many of us, being unwell triggers reactions of sympathy and support from family members, friends and neighbours. But for those suffering from NTDs, the response can be quite different – as most of them have stigmatising consequences.
Sometimes this is a direct result of the disease and its effect on appearance or behaviour. Often, it is because of long-held negative attitudes towards people affected by the disease. In addition, health-related stigma can also delay or prevent people affected by NTDs from seeking treatment. This increases the risk of disability and can lead to on-going medical issues – which can in turn, perpetuate stigma and discrimination.
“People affected by NTDs are disproportionately impacted by stigma and discrimination and are the most vulnerable. Stigma can compromise their right to health, family, employment, education and limit their participation. Addressing these challenges is critical to fighting NTDs now and in the future,” explained NNN Chair Yaobi Zhang.
As a result of stigma and discrimination, individuals and families experience social isolation – with major impacts on mental wellbeing and social and economic exclusion.