This was originally published on Liberal America on March 21, 2016.
Mental health has seen plenty of stigma. Luckily, in this country we are past the days of locking mentally ill people in horrible asylums. More people are coming around to the concept of mental health being a part of your overall health. The increase in awareness helps, now we just need to stamp out the stigma.
Unfortunately, not every country is making this kind of progress. In Indonesia, mentally ill people are locked away in dirty cells or back rooms in their houses for years at a time.
One example is Engkos Kosasih, who kept his 50-year-old daughter tied up in a back room of the house for over 15 years. Her father thought someone had cast a spell on her, making her destructive. She used stones to try and dig a way out, and she slept in the rubble.
This practice was banned in Indonesia in 1977, but it is still happening. They have given it a special term, pasung. The U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health conducted a surveyand found people that had been constrained for from 2 to as many as 21 years. They were specifically looking at the island of Samosir, which has one psychiatrist – total.
In Indonesia, 57,000 people have been restrained at least once in their life because of mental disabilities. There is plenty of stigma there. Many people there still believe that mental illnesses are caused by evil spirits.
In Central Java, 29-year-old Carika was locked up in a cramped goat shed for years. She was released five years ago, but her family ran out of money to pay for her meds. Unfortunately, her condition worsened after that.
The entire country of Indonesia only has 48 mental hospitals for a population of over 300 million. There are only 800 psychiatrists. The mentally ill are sometimes sent to faith healers that make them drink strange concoctions and be subjected to a really rough “massage.”
In 2014, Indonesia passed a Mental Health Act to hopefully improve this horrific system. Next month, the President of Indonesia is going to sign a Rights of Persons with Disabilities bill. This should give equal rights to people suffering those conditions, so they can get the help they need.