Nearly half of the world lives in a country where there is less than one psychiatrist per 100,000 people.

  30 October 2016 14:55 - My first month in Jakarta I took an ojek over the Semanggi flyover and while stuck in a traffic jam I watched a naked man walk past the cars and on past me undisturbed. Three years later, he still walks Semanggi naked.

That is not a real picture of mental health in the country. It's the working mothers feeling a weight of responsibility bearing down on them, or the employee whose manager thinks they have an attitude problem that goes home every night and visualizes jumping off a roof.

That is an obvious example, but the real cost of mental health to Indonesia is internal, just as with the millions of individuals who suffer. People are either too afraid to reach out or are unaware there are options for them to get help.

Indonesia has a gaping hole in its attitude to mental health. A total breakdown is not the only manifestation — its an everyday issue.

"Culturally, specifically to the Indonesian society, 'mental health' is a highly stigmatized subject that we shy away from talking openly about," says Wynne Wee, clinical director at the International Wellbeing Center, which provides support and counseling for patients. "This is a shame, because this stigmatization is borne of misinformation and a great lack of awareness."

Wee emphasizes that mental health, just like physical health, is equally important to every human being. 

"A paradigm shift needs to take place for us to realize that we all need to pay greater attention not just to our physical wellness but to our mental health," she says. 

A modern world brings with it the knowledge to deal with problems that we never had before. Not dealing with a problem like mental health isn't just damaging to the families and individuals involved.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 1 in 10 people have a mental health disorder, yet nearly half of the world lives in a country where there is less than one psychiatrist per 100,000 people. The worldwide median for mental health workers is 9 per 100,000 people. 

In the organization's Mental Health Atlas 2014 survey, governments are said to spend an average of 3 percent of their health care budgets on mental health. Meanwhile, it estimates that every dollar spent on treatment of mental health issues such as counseling and medication has the potential to produce a return of $4, boosting economic growth. 

In an economy where young people face enormous pressure to compete for jobs this affects both ends of society. The suicide of an advertising employee in Jakarta is as devastating as that of a freelance sulphur miner in rural Java. Both though, are preventable.

"With more active education and information, we can and need to move towards a society in which it is OK for one to say 'yes, I need support to talk about my recent stressors at home or at work' as easily as one were to say 'yes, I need to see a doctor for my flu," Wee says.




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