Mental illness in Indonesia

As much as I moan about the mental health system in Australia, it could be worse. I mean, I could’ve ended up living here in Indonesia instead, where I’m currently holidaying and visiting relatives. Would’ve, had my grandparents not decided to relocate the family to Australia over 20 years ago.

Of course, I don’t have any direct experience, nor much knowledge of the mental health system here. But judging by the situation described in this video, it’s nothing to be proud of. Even those who are anti psychiatry must admit that’s better than chaining people up with nothing but a bare floor and open sewer, with only ancient wisdom, prayer and herbal therapy as treatment. It makes public psych wards in Australia look like five star hotels.

Then there’s the beliefs held by a proportion of the people here. My aunt’s friend’s daughter has some mental health issues. She’s been to a doctor and attends counselling. Her relatives though believe that her issues are caused by black magic; someone wanting to harm her or the family. They’ve recommended she see a healer who will extinguish the supposed black magic. It’s a notion that sounds bizarre to most of us living in the western world. There are many possible causes of mental illness, whether it be trauma, stress, biological, abuse, etc etc. But what we do know is that black magic is not one of them. A belief that is not firmly held here. It isn’t the families’ fault though. There are cultural differences and a lack of mental health literacy and education and awareness programs.

I feel both lucky and guilty. Guilty when I read and hear about how people with mental illness are mistreated here. Guilty when I reflect on my life in comparison. Such states of poverty in this country; homeless people, dwellings in which naming them ‘houses’ would be generous, hard manual labour in which their wages in a day we’d easily earn in an hour. What right do I have to be depressed in my first world conditions and to receive competitively good mental health care? I admit that when I arrive home I’ll be relieved; relieved I receive the standard of mental health care there instead of here, relieved that I’m not reminded and guilt ridden everyday of how privileged I am, relieved I live in Australia instead of Indonesia or some other developing country.

5 thoughts on “Mental illness in Indonesia

  1. That’s an amazing video – I was really startled to see the chains. Isn’t it amazing that a lot of books still state that mental health is not really a problem in the developing world? I guess they just don’t see it.

    Hope you’re enjoying your holiday, even so. And btw, you really do have the right to your first world care – don’t feel guilty just because you are better off than people in the developing world – depression is still a tough thing to live with wherever you are.

  2. Wow. what an interesting post. Very thought provoking. I never saw men tal illness as being an issue in the developing world either….but like JuliesMum says, its obviously just not well documented. It seems while our systems dont always get it right…they do have the benifit of being better developed than some xxxxx

  3. I feel like a bit of a parrot but it really makes you think, it’s not well documented at all!
    You deserve the help you get (and more) so please don’t feel guilty, take care x

  4. I have a friend who is from Indonesia but she is settled in the US now with her husband, she goes back occasionally to see her family. When I read posts like this I realise how lucky we are to have the NHS, yes it might not be perfect but we are luckier than many countries.

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