Thu, Oct 11, 2012 - Page 4 News List

FEATURE: Indonesia’s mentally ill shackled, forgotten

AFP, KARANGASEM, Indonesia

He was chained for nine years before Suryani convinced his family to unchain him.

“I don’t remember being chained up that well, but I remember I hated it. I’m happier here,” he said, struggling to sit up on the three slats of wood that form his bed.

Surung is cared for by his 29-year-old son, I Nengah Sarita, who makes 40,000 rupiah (US$4) a day as a laborer when work is available. He lives with a dog and four cats in a hut with thatch-grass walls and a tin roof meters from his father. The men and animals alike eat only rice.

The system is in need of an overhaul, health ministry mental health management director Diah Setia Utami said.

“We have a problem where practitioners don’t follow up on their patients, and the referral system isn’t working,” Utami said. “We aimed to free all pasung by 2014, but we’ve revised our target to 2020. There’s a lot of awareness work is needed to really change this culture and free the mentally ill.”

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