End This Shameful Practice

It is tragic that inhumane treatment of Bali’s mentally ill continues to this day. The medieval practice of chaining up those suffering from chronic psychiatric conditions persists in villages right around the island, a shameful reflection of standards of care and treatment under the Health Department.

With a report this week by the local Suryani Institute for Mental Health that some 300 mentally ill people in Bali are in stocks at their homes, oftentimes without any clothing at all, the department must act to rectify this grievous wrong.

The department, with the Health Ministry in Jakarta, must work with the institute to find out who these sufferers are, and if home-based care is not possible, due to the severity of their ailments, they must be institutionalised despite protests from families, many of whom prefer to have their mentally ill in stocks at home because at least they are with them.

Human dignity is not served by practices that were barbaric even several centuries ago.

It is believed that there are around 7,000 cases of mentally ill people in Bali, the overwhelming majority of them receiving little or no treatment for their conditions, due to a prevailing lack of emphasis on mental health by the authorities. It is not surprising, therefore, that Bali has a shockingly high suicide rate, as people either decide they can no longer live under their mental strain or cannot easily cope with everyday problems and issues that arise.

There is no shame whatsoever in seeking treatment for any condition that people are afflicted with, whether physical or mental. Families around Bali need to realise this and when someone is stricken, whether from birth or later in life, appropriate help must be sought. It is up to the Health Department to ensure unwanted stigmas are banished.

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