Markus Junianto Sihaloho
The House of Representatives’ Commission IX plans to set up a working committee to discuss the mental health bill soon.
“Commission IX of the House of Representatives has decided in a meeting on [our] work agenda to form a working committee for the mental health bill,” Poempida Hidayatullah, a member of the commission, said in Jakarta on Sunday.
He said the bill would be highly technical to prevent its provisions from being liberally interpreted and potentially misused.
Poempida said lawmakers would need to think carefully about the impacts of the bill to the nation’s justice system.
“A president could even be impeached because he’s considered to be suffering mental problems. Moreover, legal charges could also be dropped from a terrorist for the same reason,” the Golkar Party politician said.
He admitted that it would not be easy to draw statutory lines as to what constitutes mental illness.
“Let’s not [give room for] suspects in any case who are good at acting to start playing the mentally disturbed role to evade the law,” he said.
Poempida said it was important for everyone involved in the mental health bill to come to a common understanding of the meaning of “mentally disturbed.”
“Not just the definition but also the symptoms and the various cases related to mental problems. Why? It’s because we’re working on a law that will cover everything that’s related to mental-based problems,” he said.
Democratic Party lawmaker Nova Riyanti Yusuf has been fighting to pass the bill since she was elected in 2009.
Nova, who has a degree in psychology from the University of Indonesia, said the bill would push the Health Ministry to inform the public about mental health, adding that people with mental illnesses were often stigmatized and treated inhumanely.
There are 33 mental hospitals in Indonesia, 27 of which are run by the state, Health Ministry data show. Six provinces lack any mental health facilities, including Banten, where many patients remain shackled in chains.
These limited facilities are considered inadequate to treat an estimated 800,000 people who suffer from chronic mental disorders in Indonesia. Another 20 million people are struggling with emotional problems and some 400,000 children experience various mental illnesses.
“We are behind countries like Sri Lanka,” Nova said. Indonesia enacted its Mental Health Law in 2005.