Ganesh Maya Shrestha

Ganesh Maya Shrestha is a psychologist working as a counsellor with patients affected by leprosy at Anandaban leprosy hospital, near Kathmandu, Nepal.

Ganesh Maya Shrestha, popularly known as Ruth, is a psychologist working as a counsellor with patients affected by leprosy at Anandaban leprosy hospital, near Kathmandu, Nepal. Since 2009 she has been based at Anandaban and also visits communities, leprosy-affected people and their families at home. She is a graduate in psychology and is currently doing an MA. Ruth also trains others in counselling skills.

She said, “leprosy is a stigmatised disease and is considered by some to be a curse from God. A diagnosis of leprosy leaves the patient feeling that they are a bad person and this can be a burden for life.” She added, “at Anandaban, we don’t just treat the physical symptoms of leprosy, we treat the psychological aspects too. People affected by leprosy suffer from their own self-stigma and very low self-esteem. They fear the disabilities caused by leprosy, that they have no prospects and no future. Their families, friends and community often avoid them and their marriages break down. Leprosy-affected children may be forbidden from attending school. People sometimes feel it would be better if they were dead.” 

“We try to build up courage and self-esteem through group discussions and by individual and family counselling sessions. A big part of the counselling is telling people the truth about leprosy; that it’s not infectious and that it can be cured. It’s a lengthy process and we see people many times over, but it is very rewarding to discover what are doing for people affected by leprosy.”

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