Pulling back from the brink: Jegathees' story

Jegathees lives near Jaffna, a city in northern Sri Lanka. He grows and sells vegetables and drives a taxi to make a living. But life is not that easy for him; he a person affected by leprosy.

Although he is cured of the disease, it has had a permanent effect on his hands and feet. Worst of all, he still suffers from social stigma of leprosy and lives with discrimination from his community. 

Many people diagnosed with leprosy experience negative social attitudes and stigma which can have devastating consequences on their lives, the lives of their family members and impact upon schooling, work, and marriage. 

Today, World Mental Health Day, we're highlighting that research has shown that around 50 per cent of people affected by leprosy will face mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. There is an increased risk of suicide among people living with the disease. One in two people affected by leprosy have had suicidal thoughts and many live with the long-term effects of leprosy on their mental health.

Jegathees said “I have a close family; they don’t discriminate against me; the big challenge is my neighbours. Despite being cured of leprosy and contributing to society, my neighbours don’t see me as an equal.”

When asked what would have happened without support from The Leprosy Mission, Jegathees said “I wouldn’t be here now. I tried to take my own life many times. But now my life has changed completely. I feel as if it has real meaning.”

National Director Peter Waddup said “We have to win this battle of hearts and minds. We have to do whatever we can to ensure that people like Jegathees are accepted.”  
 
Through support from The Leprosy Mission, Jegathees has been supplied with protective shoes and gloves, a water-pump, a motorbike and a goat. He was given nutritious food and help to set up a garden to grow vegetables which he sells to make a living. He is now self-sufficient, has grown his business and upgraded his motorbike to an auto-rickshaw.

He has also learned self-care techniques, so he knows how to take care of his hands and feet to prevent further injury and disability. Jegathees has been able to overcome many of the struggles he has faced as a result of leprosy, but for many other people affected by the disease, its effects on their mental wellbeing are a daily struggle. It's with your support that The Leprosy Mission provides services such as counselling and advocacy against discrimination, making a huge difference in people's lives.

 

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