Bali fights against stigma of mental illness
Bali is now facing the daunting task of eliminating the social stigma attached to patients with mental health problems, which prevents them from getting proper medical treatment.
Head of Bali Health Agency I Ketut Suarjaya confirmed that the province was strongly committed to fighting the stigmas within Balinese society. “The stigma has been around for such a long time and it remains the same until the present. Through the implementation of numerous programs, the administration has been trying to eradicate the stigma and it has changed a little,” Suarjaya said.
For Balinese families, people with mental health issues are a family disgrace that must be covered up. Some families even shackle their own children and other relatives diagnosed with mental illness.
The administration estimated that there were about 100 per 12,000 people with severe mental illness on the island being shackled or confined by their own families. Most of them live in impoverished villages in Karangasem in east Bali and Buleleng in north Bali.
In 2012, the Bangli Mental Hospital released 58 mentally ill patients, previously victims of shackling.
Suarjaya said that the provincial administration had intensified attempts to raise people’s awareness on the importance of providing treatment for mentally ill patients. “We have intensified a public awareness program to deliver the correct information about mental illness and how to treat people with this problem,” he said.
The administration has also provided training and capacity building skills to doctors, medical personnel, paramedics, nurses and those working in community health centers.
“We are expecting that the community health centers will become the first gatekeepers to provide the initial medical aid for people with mental illness in remote regions,” Suarjaya added.
He said that there were still very few medical doctors who specialized in mental illness. However, the primary goal was to employ at least one specialist in every regional hospital across Bali.
Made Sugiharta Yasa, director of Bangli Mental Hospital, commented that a lack of capable human resources to provide medical treatment, psychological counseling and the necessary treatment regimens for the mentally ill had become a crucial problem in Bali’s health landscape.
The mental health hospital’s management is currently launching an outreach program — a Mobile Mental Health Center, to visit families who have relatives with mental health problems.
The community-based program has reached many patients living in remote villages, providing them with free treatment, generally reaching and treating between 50 and 80 patients every day.
In operating the mobile hospital, the administration has received support from the private sector and NGOs, including Jansenn Indonesia, which donated a vehicle.