The World Mental Health Day is commemorated on 10th of October every year to emphasize the importance of mental health through raising awareness and to advocate against prevailing social stigma faced by persons affected by mental illness and their family members. With one suicide case being reported every 40 seconds across the globe, the theme for this year is aptly on ‘suicide prevention’. Mental health of persons affected by leprosy and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is yet to become a priority for the national governments and other stakeholders of mental health programmes in NTD endemic countries.
On the occasion of World Photography Day (August 19), we spoke to Ms Sarika Gulati (https://www.facebook.com/sarika.shuangren), documentary photographer and an arts-based therapy practitioner on her experience during her assignments in working with The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI) for documenting the stories of people affected by leprosy and capturing their courage in the face of adversity, through her photographs.
For the 13-year-old Gaganand, life was all about playing with friends. His days were filled with frolic and loads of fun. He loved playing cricket with his friends. But one day, two years ago, all this came to an abrupt end.
Gaganand was studying in Class 3 at that time. His mother, Savita Raju Rathore, noticed a discoloured patch on his body. As there was no sensation on the patch, she thought something was amiss and took him to the local doctor, who diagnosed him with leprosy.
Meet Akash Rambhau Devlkar, a 22-year-old young man from Nandgaon, in Wardha district of Maharashtra.
Akash’s father was affected by leprosy and because of delayed diagnosis of the disease, he had a deformity. Because of the deformity, he could not work, and this has put the family’s day-to-day living in jeopardy. Akash wanted to make something of his life and give a good life to his parents.
The sparkle of steely determination that shone in Rajkumar’s eyes was convincing enough for The Leprosy Mission Trust India’s SOAR (Securing Opportunities towards Advancing Revenue) project team to propose his name as one of the members of the board of directors of a milk producer company that the project was facilitating. Rajkumar was no different from the other board members – he was also affected by leprosy.