Incorporating Mental Health for People with Neglected Tropical Diseases

participants laugh and raise their hands during a mental health workshop

Participants from a workshop on enabling access to mental health.
©Sarah Isaacs/Momenta Workshops

On 7th October, the World Health Organization launches the guide ‘Mental health and neglected tropical diseases: towards a person-centred approach’. CBM is proud to have been part of a partnership calling for better attention to be paid to mental wellbeing for people affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases.

This article has been written by Dr. Julian Eaton, Mental Health Director at CBM Global Disability Inclusion.

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) affect some of the poorest people in the world, and cause substantial disability. It is because of this that CBM has worked in this area for many years, helping to not only treat people affected by these diseases (like trachoma that can cause blindness), but also to try to reduce the likelihood of people being infected in the first place. Exciting progress has been made, for example Myanmar has just become trachoma-free. These developments have been driven by important advances in medication and science, and by a renewed commitment by a global consortium with the ambitious aim of actually trying to eradicate some of these diseases that cause so much harm. 

Access the guide here.

Along with partners around the world, CBM work to ensure that people affected by NTDs are able to access good care and support for the disabilities they have from conditions like elephantiasis, trachoma and onchocerciasis.  Much of this support is in terms of good care for physical health, but there is increasing recognition that many people also have emotional consequences associated with the conditions, and being rejected by society. 

Since ancient times, people affected by leprosy have been a potent symbol of how some health conditions can cause people to be rejected from their communities, adding to the suffering caused by health symptoms themselves. CBM helped to establish the mental health work among a consortium  of organisations working in NTDs, called the NTD NGO Network (NNN).  After 10 years of learning as we worked with our partners, we partnered with the World Health Organization, Lepra and Brighton and Sussex Medical School, to develop a manual to guide integration of mental health care into projects that support people affected by NTDs. It’s exciting to see the manual being launched a few days before World Mental Health Day, and we are looking forward to seeing it put to good use!

Many NTDs lead to chronic disease and disability. Related stigma and poor mental health are often neglected as important factors aggravating suffering and exclusion. CBM welcomes the launch of the WHO Mental Health and NTDs guide as an important resource and call for action.
Dr. Martin Kollmann, CBM’s Senior Advisor for NTDs.

CBM NTD Report 2020

In the past year, thanks to our partners and donors, CBM reached about 57 million people in 9 countries who were affected by NTDs and received treatment or underwent eye surgeries. An additional 31 million were treated through Mass Drug Administration (MDA). 

Access the report here