Mental health care atrocities in Indonesia leave patients shackled

A report by the Human Rights Watch has highlighted the extent to which people in Indonesia with psychosocial disabilities are treated awfully, often chained up and left “living in hell.”

There are, undoubtedly, issues with the mental health system in the UK, and often it lets people down and can leave them without adequate care or treatment.

However, as a society, the UK understands mental illness on some level, and realises that people with a mental health problem are suffering, and need help.

In Indonesia, this is often not the case, and people with psychosocial disabilities are often shackled and locked up in cells and denied basic human rights, despite the fact that shackling has been outlawed in the country since 1977.

A lack of knowledge, education, funding and infrastructure, coupled with a basic fear of people who act out oddly and buck the social norms, in some cases even becoming violent for no apparent reason, has led to terrible care of people with the psychosocial disabilities. Being locked up is often cited as being for the protection of the patient themselves, as well as for the protection of people looking after them.

The report is titled “Living in Hell, Abuses against People with Psychosocial Disabilities in Indonesia,” and is a harrowing read.

Among many cases, it describes the ordeal of a 29 year old woman named Carika who was locked up by her family for four years, as one of the 57,000 people in Indonesia who have undergone pasung (the act of shackling someone or detaining them in a cell) because of either real or perceived mental health issues.

It is estimated that over 18,000 people are currently living through pasung in Indonesia at this moment.

It is heart rending to see reports like this from around the world, when we know that what people with psychosocial diseases need is not to be locked up (which will likely make their mental health problems worse) but need support, care, and, first and foremost, to be treated like a human.

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