Research Associate, Indonesian Mental Health Association (IMHA)
People with Psychosocial Disabilities (PwPD)- those who are diagnosed with mental health conditions—are currently facing restrictions in the exercise of their rights, specifically those detained in social care institutions or mental rehabilitation centers. They are considered as a group at high risk of being infected by the novel coronavirus in Indonesia. Without government support and targeted policies, these social care institutions may quickly turn into a death chamber. In Jakarta alone, which is considered as the epicenter of the outbreak, there are around 2500 PwPDs trapped in government and private social care institutions. In Bekasi, a nearby city, city around Jakarta, hundreds more who are confined and on lockdown (Muryono & Riswan, 2019.)
Like most Indonesians, PwPDs are not fully aware of the causes and impacts of Covid-19 outbreak throughout the country. They are at the end of the line when it comes to accessing information. They are not allowed to own mobile phones. Furthermore, many insitutions where they reside do not have televisions and newspapers available for their patients.
In mid-March 2020, Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered everyone living in the country to practice physical distancing as a measure to supress infections. Unfortunately, the current situation in social care institutions contradicts directives of the government in avoiding the further spread of the virus . Many PwPDs are still locked up in a crowded room, which breaks the whole principle of physical distancing. In many institutions, a 150 sq. m ward that has a typically accommodates around 30-50 people. Furthermore, in some institutions, especially private institutions, residents are not allowed to go out from their ward apart from mealtimes (Damayanti, et all, 2020).
Another key directive is the promotion of personal hygiene. The Government appeals to all to practice hand washing in order to counter COVID-19. Basic personal hygiene is a serious concern in many social care institutions in Indonesia. Some residents find it difficult to use the toilet properly and even taking a bath As a matter of fact that, Galuh Rehabilitation Center residents in Bekasi do all their daily activities in the same ward (Damayanti, et all, 2020).
In terms of diet and nutrition, it has been reported that many residents are left to starve. Some institutions management just provide food which not adequate with their calories needed (Damayanti, et all, 2020).
Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) states that governments should take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk. Covid-19 is a great test to this provision. It is the right of a person with disability to be treated with dignity and to be able to access basic services. In this case, the Indonesian government has so much to fulfill in order to protect such right. First, it should monitor institutions and make them accountable for their policies and actions. They must be able to control the number of residents that they accommodate and be able to promote basic hygiene at all times.
The Indonesian government is responsible for every human being within its territory. It should also financial and technical support to concerned families in order for them to take care of their relatives with psychosocial disabilities during the health crisis. Otherwise, it should provide more facilities that can efficiently accommodate patients. Lastly, the Government must ensure that everyone are able to access services for better nutrition as well as be well informed about directives for public compliance against the spread of Covid-19.
This has to be done swiftly, otherwise, social care institutions will start turning into death chambers— a situation no one wants to happen.
Muryono, S., & Kuntum Khaira Riswan. (2019, March 19). Bina Laras Jakarta treats 2,535 people with psychosocial disabilities. Accessed April 9th 2020 via https://www.antaranews.com/berita/812647/panti-sosial-bina-laras-dki-merawat-2535-orang-gangguan-jiwa
Damayanti, Yeni Rosa. Et all. (2020). The Forgotten People: Alternative Report to UN CRPD Committee on the Situation of Perple with Psychosocial Disability in Indonesia 2020, Jakarta: Indonesian Mental Health Association.