Indonesia’s mentally ill and its “banned ‘pasung’ practice”

14 Feb

In Ghana’s rural communities they have rituals to kill the “spirit child” while in Indonesia they shackle them and confine them to small places to prevent them from attacking other-  like a wild animal. IRIN (humanitarian news and analysis) published an article today called Tackling shackling of the mentally ill in Indonesia.

The Indonesia Health Ministry estimates 19 million people nationwide have various mental health disorders, of which18 million live in rural areas. Currently, Indonesia counts with 33 specialized mental health hospitals and 600 psychiatrists to attend 19 million people.

The ‘pasung’ practice (shackling) was banned since 1977 and in 2011 the Health Ministry launched the campaign “Menuju Indonesia Bebas Pasung” or in English “Towards a Shackle-free Indonesia”, but hasn’t made much progress due to the lack of trained health professionals and the lack of funding. Despite those efforts by the government people are still embracing the pasung practice it in both rural and urban communities. People with mental disorders are being shackled behind their homes and/or inside their homes in small rooms to avoid stigma.

Mental health institutions (long-term) have become the solution to mental health prevalence among many developing countries. Such institutions are understaffed, under resourced, and highly costly to sustain for the kind of services they inevitably fail to provide. What is considered a “severe” disability justifying institutionalization in these countries may be a minor disability in other countries that would require limited family and professionals support to integrate disabled people back into society. In countries such Indonesia, where their health care system is decentralized, is very easy to ‘allocate’ or not allocate funds to some regions and the federal government does not have a final registry on how many adults, youth and children are placed in public mental health institutions throughout the country. Needless to say, reports on abuses and maltreatment are nonexistent. Placement of children with disabilities these institutions increases their vulnerability to violence making children easy prey. By funding long- term mental care institutions, instead of funding people, governments are hampering the social, economic, and educational development of the country

While people all over the world try to escape stigma and prejudice by others, they much rather kill, ignore, maltreat, and fear their own family members. Why are we so scared of disabilities? I insist the more we don’t talk about it, the more we contribute to the stigma.

We can’t change what others will say, think or feel towards people with disabilities, but we sure can change the way we make feel our loved ones suffering from a mental health disorder.


3 Responses to “Indonesia’s mentally ill and its “banned ‘pasung’ practice””

  1. Devin February 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    Every time I read your posts I think to myself “Why DON’T we have more of a global dialogue about this?” Stigma against those living with disabilities never really gets any attention on the policy front – perhaps this is what it takes to get people talking about it? Georgina, do you think that this could be the case? That no one is talking about how to reduce stigma because the leaders of this country/countries everywhere do not talk enough about the issue?

    Are there examples of leaders who have taken this cause on?

  2. Devin February 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Again, this HRW report definitely applies to this situation as well:

  3. georgina February 15, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    I don’t know if that’s the solution to the problem, but that might be the first step. The more we talk about it, the more we acknowledge and face this reality, subsequently the more we can do to alleviate their suffering, to prevent abuses like this and to integrate them into the community through varied inclusive practices. There’s a huge need worldwide to educate people on disabilities and mental health disorders. People can only relate to the issue if they know someone close with a disability or suffering from a mental disorder, the rest of the people are uninformed or/ and uninterested because for them is a ‘distant suffering’.

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