By: Agoes Rudianto
At least one million Indonesians suffer from mental disorders. Of this number, at least 30,000 are bound by chains or kept in cages – despite a law dating back to the 1970s outlawing such practices. The law is routinely violated by the families of sufferers, as well as local public health officers, many of whom don`t have a clue how to treat people with mental disorders.
Some people, however, are trying to make a difference. The Al Fajar Berseri Foundation, in Bekasi, West Java Province, opened a rehabilitation center in 1992 to treat Indonesians with mental disorders, and to do so as humanely as possible. The center currently has around 300 patients who were rescued from the streets, referred by local police or admitted by families who gave up on taking care of them.
Some patients, sadly, are still bound by chains, but only if the foundation deems them a danger to themselves or others, and only on a case-by-case basis. It is not a permanent solution or standard practice. Once patients are determined to be stable the chains are removed and they can move freely around the foundation`s treatment center.
Marsan, the foundation`s founder and leader, treats patients through massage and herbal medicine. He and his staff gently massage patients from head to toe. Patients who can communicate well take part in managing the rehabilitation center – everything from preparing food and cleaning the compound to carrying out maintenance work such as painting walls.