There was a recent article released from CNN that affected me and stayed on my mind for so long. This issue is one that should affect all of us, as it affects our brothers and sisters, people just like us who need to be rescued. The article explained that so many people in Indonesia are kept in "pasung"—in confinement, sometimes chains even—if they have a perceived mental illness.Although the practice was banned, it is still commonplace.
The fact that abusing and confining people who struggle with mental illness is common in some areas of our world is heartbreaking. People who just need aid, care, and possibly medicine are given the complete opposite. Some are literally bound by chains. Even more staggering than that is the fact that their very own family members are the perpetrators of such extreme abuse.
Confining and mistreating someone with a mental illness is the opposite of what should be happening in this situation. It is evident that this will make the illness worse. The person needs extra care, not isolation and abuse. This seems common sense, right? Although, we have to try to understand that even though this is obvious to us, there definitely is a “lack of understanding of mental health” that is “keeping many in chains” in some parts of the world. What is scary is that they aren’t just in physical chains, but mental and emotional chains as well. And the chains are just getting stronger as these people continue to be denied the aid they desperately need.
The statistics show just how serious of an issue this is. Over 57,000 people in Indonesia who are considered psychologically disabled are put in literal chains. This may seem even more extreme to us in the United States because we have come to understand mental illness better in recent years. We have medicine that aids enormously, counseling that is more accessible, and resources in our close grasp; yet we still have a long way to go.
In Indonesia, as discussed in this article, resources aren’t as readily available. When the medicine for a woman ran out, she was put back in shackles because her family wasn’t able to afford more. Even getting to a hospital is a challenge financially, as there are only 48 mental hospitals in this country. To show a comparison, in the United States there are 403. And to explain this problem even further, Indonesia is the fourth largest country, by population, in the world, so the need for this specialty of care to become more prevalent and affordable is enormous.
Along with the need for hospitals, there is a need for caregivers who will respect these individuals and treat them with care and knowledgeability of their various mental, physical, and emotional needs. The “healers” in this place often abuse the patients even further, without regard to their rights and their values as human beings. Since many in this place do not understand what the mentally disabled person is going through, it seems that they just disregard them as an equal individual with the same basic needs and rights. We cannot treat our fellow brothers and sisters this way, no matter the circumstance. We have to find ways to help; there is always another solution, a new way to think and to react.
Thankfully, steps are being taken to end this mistreatment in Indonesia once and for all, and I am hopeful that we will see these horrifying statistics decrease…
Instead of the numbers of chains that are binding people, I hope we can begin to count the number of chains that have been broken and lives that have been set completely, irreversibly free.
There is obviously a long way to go, knowing that weighted stigmas, and even mistreatment, are still a huge part of mental illness throughout the world, but we must keep moving forward and working to understand and fix these problems.