Mental Health: Another human right of people affected by leprosy we must advocate for

India passed the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 on April 7, 2017, and it came into force from July 7, 2018. The Act seeks to fulfil India’s international obligation pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Mental health is a human right. Some of the key provisions of the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016 are that all people have the right to:

  • Good quality and affordable mental healthcare services provided or funded by the government. Also, they should have easy access to these services.
  • Equality of treatment.
  • Free treatment if they are homeless or belong to Below Poverty Line (BPL), even if they do not have a BPL card.
  • Live with dignity and without discrimination on any basis, including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability.

The link between leprosy and mental health is prominently discussed these days. Healthcare providers believe 50 per cent of people living with the consequences of leprosy experience anxiety and depression – discrimination, stigmatisation, and ostracisation being the contributing factors. Also, leprosy adversely affects the mental health of family members of people affected by leprosy.

However, people affected by leprosy hardly know about mental health is a human right and they do not know when and where to seek help. They ignore their mental health issues and live in a dark world of psychiatric disorders.

It is time we jointly advocated for the right of mental health of people affected by leprosy. Unless we do it now, many more people affected by leprosy will face a violation of this right, severely affecting the quality of their lives