Thursday, 7 February 2013

Pasung in Indonesia

Enchanted with its unique structure of Islands, magnetized for tourists with sailing events, traditional festivals and cultural heritage, Indonesia has become a high spot for the globe. Turning the coin, human rights activists are more concerned with a severe issue prevailing in Indonesia which is restraints or confinements for the people with mental disorders, affecting nation’s beauty depressingly.

“Pasung”, a confinement for mentally ill, is awfully common in Indonesia. Being a developing country, a large chunk of less privileged families do not find a better way than chaining mentally ill people or hemming them in somewhere for an unknown time span. Another issue identified was that it’s also sometimes considered as a punishment from Almighty due to lack of education and awareness. Statistics on Pasung are astonishing, 11 percent of the whole country, making it one of the most serious health issues to be considered critically.

Unwanted behavior towards these deviants leads to increase mental illness that could be cured far more easily with a positive attitude. So many cases are reported every month in Indonesia where people with mental disability are kept far away from homes putting in their ankles in iron shackles or wooden stocks, locked in cages, huts or boxes or are immobilized for many years. According to mental health workers, this discrimination actually worsening the mental order of patients, reported in two surveys for Health Education Authority (HEA). These practices contribute to a great stigma in society for the people with mental illness.

Here a question arises, why families practice restraints for their beloved ones with mental disorders? Major reasons identified being chance of harm by the psychological patients to themselves and to others, un-affordability of treatment and deficiency of care and love. In actual, psychological patients are more vulnerable to the emotional reactions they receive from surroundings that include strange, mysterious and dangerous perceptions. Families communicated that cost need to incur on the treatment also includes cost of travel as medical centers providing psychiatric assistance are less being only 33 in number for whole nation.

Let us see now what Article 4 of Declaration of Human Rights and Mental Health states about the rights of mentally challenged people:

“The fundamental rights of persons, who are labeled, or diagnosed, treated or defined as mentally or emotionally ill or distressed, shall be the same as those of all other citizens. These include the right to coercion-free, dignified, humane and qualified treatment with access to medically, psychologically and socially indicated technology....”

Despite of the declarations and principles lay down by human rights organizations at global level, such stories come into light so religiously. Horrendous tales about abusive behavior towards these psychological patients, which is destroying mental well-being of patients too strongly, must be reported to human rights activists and international forums. It will help the country to deal with the gloomy state of affairs with more professionally sound individuals and foreign aid because a developing country is naturally unable to do so at an effective scale.

In a research, it was identified that main reason for increasing pasung in Indonesia must be referred to lack of governmental interest in this regard and must not put all of the burden on the shoulders of communities and their lack of entertaining psychiatric assistance. But we must not ignore the initiative taken by Indonesian government to eradicate pasung by 2014. This is the first observance ever from any developing country towards elimination of abuse with mentally ill patients. Though legislation and budgetary allocations are still questionable in this regard, still a hope arises for those who own soft hearts.

Started from collecting facts and statistics regarding pasung all over the country, Indonesian Director of Health Ministry Dr. Irmansyah took an initiative for “pasung free Indonesia”. They also focused on extensive campaigns to educate health workers and general public about pasung treatment. Role of mental health workers must be emphasized remarkably to increase understanding about downbeat consequences of pasung among masses. Unless proper training given to them, right facilities provided, and empowering a say in policies to abolish pasung, this issue cannot be scaled on a precise direction.

As human being has accessed most of the knowledge about human body and nature, anatomy and physiology indicates “partial insanity” since in most of the cases only a part of a brain is damaged and not the whole one. What is in need then is to reach to the working part of the brain that could help to repair the damaged one. This scenario surely encourages moral treatment of patients. Asylums with right environment are then needed to be developed rigorously in Indonesia to provide protection and fair treatment to the people with mental disorder.

We have had many examples in past where dreadful diseases that were considered as uncontrollable were managed to be controlled. Tuberculosis in India and Polio in Pakistan are dramatic examples from under-developed countries. Indonesia can also handle this health related severe issue by having a suitable strategic plan and proper implementation with potential task-force.

If we end up by saying that more hospitals treating mentally ill patients are required to eliminate pasung by 2014 in Indonesia, then an important curve is still left out. Are we going to create a new pasung for psychological patients with a label of hospital? Only a proper atmosphere in line with rights of mentally challenged people can bring some difference. We have an example of New York State where mental hospitals are replaced with prisons. It is not that strange, if you are going to leave the deviants in the middle of the treatment or releasing them without proper assistance with them then they may end up in filling out prisons. It is a delicate matter and necessitates to be handled with sound planning and strategies created in collaboration with affected families, psychologists, governmental bodies, health workers and human rights associations.

Whatever the strategy adopted, incarceration cannot be a solution to help mental illness. Pasung or confinements for mentally ill people are a source of biggest shame for the country. It may be gripped by uplifting know-how of the matter in consideration, training health workers and enhanced governmental support in form of subsidies in hospitals and development of asylums with appropriate environment. Magnificence of Indonesia will then be retained and appreciated more wholeheartedly.

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