Indonesian Mental Health Services Lacking
Another school brawl on Tuesday has made it even more apparent that teenagers, who are already prone to mental health problems, need greater access to psychological facilities.
“The teenage period is the era where crucial changes such as hormonal changes are taking place. Psychologically, this is a transition period,” Dr. Tun Kurniasih Bastaman, chairman of the All Indonesian Psychiatrists Association, said on Tuesday.
Tun said that the teenage years can be quite stressful and youth who act with violence may need psychological evaluations.
“When a kid is involved in a brawl, it shouldn’t be seen as mere juvenile delinquency, but it should be observed because it could be the start of a mental health problem and therefore a preventive measure can be taken,” he said.
He added that serious mental problems such as schizophrenia usually occur at a young age. He called on the government to carry out a study of teenagers’ behavior, especially those involved with extreme violence like school brawls, and their potential mental health problems to prevent them from growing into more serious disorders.
Not only do teenagers lack access to facilities, but Indonesian citizens in general have limited options when it comes to psychological assistance.
Nova Riyanti Yusuf, a member of House of Representatives Commission IX, which oversees health issues, said there are not enough paramedics specializing in mental health, with only 616 psychiatrists in the country. Eight provinces in the country don’t even have mental health institutions, she added. The problem could reduced if all 9,000 community health centers provided decent mental health services — only 1,235 currently provide the service, she said.
She added that it took her three years to convince the House to even deliberate a mental health bill. The House finally agreed to deliberate the bill in July after rejecting it several times.
Novi said the mental health bill is crucial because Indonesians are vulnerable to mental health problems.
“Sri Lanka has had its mental health law since 2005, triggered by the 2004 tsunami. The number of tsunami victims on our side is much higher but we don’t have one,” she said.
She said that countries prone to natural disasters face growing risks of its citizens suffering from mental health problems. She added that the Health Ministry’s 2007 Basic Health Research found that 11.6 percent of Indonesians aged 15 and over had mild mental health problems.
“But that’s only the ones recorded at health facilities. Imagine others who have not sought help. How many more are there?” she asked.