NTD Summit 2017: Mental health and neglected diseases

April 19, 2017

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) directly affect around one billion people in the poorest parts of the world, and many more are at risk. It is now widely understood that many NTDs lead to serious and long-term impairments, which affect people’s health and wellbeing, limit their ability to work and earn a living, restrict their social, family, community and religious roles, and also dramatically reduce their lifespan.  However, the effects of NTDs extend far beyond these physical aspects to the person’s mental wellbeing .

NTDs can also cause sensations like severe itching, discomfort, and chronic pain. Some NTDs directly affect the brain, limiting a person’s abilities, and causing epilepsy, dementia and coma.  For many, anxiety about the consequences of the disease, such as progressive blindness and disability, lead to further mental distress.

Unfortunately many people with NTDs also experience a high level of stigma, exclusion and discrimination.  Social exclusion and the attitudes and behaviour of others can have a profound emotional consequences leading to mental distress. For many, the depressive illness that results is another devastating factor.  It is now also recognised that the mental health consequences of NTDs affect people’s motivation, which reduces the likelihood that they’ll seek or complete treatment, which in turn leads to worse outcomes.

So far, mental health, emotional, and psychosocial consequences of NTDs have largely been ignored. Our workshop at the NTD Summit in Geneva (Friday 21 April) will be a constructive step to address this problem.  Key experts, practitioners and people with direct experience of living with NTDs, will come together to learn about the current state of research, and explore strategies to make a lasting impact.