According to a 2016 study by Human Rights Watch, approximately 18,000 people in Indonesia who suffer from severe
mental health issues are currently chained, or caged. Despite a 1977 law that bans shackling, Indonesians are still
resorting to this practice due to lack of accessible mental health services and education.
In a country with a population of 250 million people, there are an estimated 800 psychiatrists to serve the country. Only
2-3% of the current health budget is allocated to mental health, 80% of which is directed to the 33 mental health hospitals
in the country. Families living on around US$35 a day, are not able to reach these 33 facilities which are concentrated in
urban areas of Java, and if they are, patients cannot afford prolonged treatment. Once they leave, families and patients are
also unable to access the necessary medication, therapy, and rehabilitation required to help victims re-enter into society.
After people have exhausted all their resources, in order to avoid harm to themselves, their families and their
communities, unpredictable behavior is met with incarceration in unsanitary, and inhumane conditions.
In 2014, a legislation was passed to further incorporate mental health services into the Ministry of Health, including
allocating more of the health budge to mental health, education, prevention, rehabilitation, and a plan to scale mental
health services to better meet the needs of the population. Since the passing of this bill, there has been little movement by
the government towards meeting these goals. This lack of urgency has left responsibility to fall mainly on the shoulders
of some philanthropic organizations, social entrepreneurships, and NGOs but many severely ill patients are still left
unseen in the darker corners of Indonesia.
Here is their story.