Jakarta. As Indonesian voters prepare to go to the polls on April 9 to vote for a new crop of legislative candidates, hospital staff and psychologists at hospitals across the archipelago are readying themselves and preparing extra beds for a new batch of losing candidates.
“Most of the legislative candidates who will be prone [to depression] are beginners who are not ready to lose,” Fadhilah Masjaya, the director of Atma Husada Hospital in Samarinda, said in the East Kalimantan capital on Thursday. “Some of them probably have spent Rp 1 billion [$88,000] alone — then it’s wasted and they become distressed.”
Fadhilah added that most candidates would not, however, suffer from major depressive symptoms.
“We’ll treat them no different to other patients,” he said.
In Balikpapan, a booming mining city on the East Kalimantan coast, the local health agency has instructed community health clinics, known as Puskesmas, to make the necessary preparations.
“We’ve opened special posts at all Puskesmas; they’re ready to treat legislative candidates who are mildly or heavily depressed,” Balikpapan Health Agency head Dyah Muryani said. “We’ve also prepared [psychiatrists]. Doctors at Puskesmas can refer patients to hospitals or to psychiatrists.”
In the East Java district of Bojonegoro, the local state-run Sosodoro Djatokoesomo Hospital said it had prepared special psychiatric wards for ill candidates.
Bojonegoro reported two cases of depression after the 2009 legislative elections. Two lawmaker hopefuls from the town, identified as Iskandar Panip and Mashudi, were treated at An Nawawi Islamic boarding school in the subdistrict of Balen. The school reportedly provides alternative, spiritual treatment for mentally ill patients.
Seeing the amount of money spent by local candidates for the upcoming legislative elections, Bojonegoro anticipates a repetition of depression cases.
“Basically we’re ready [to treat psychiatric patients],” Sosodoro spokesman Thomas Djaja told Indonesian news portal tempo.co.
And if it’s a severe case of depression, Sosodoro said, the patients will be referred to psychiatric hospitals in Surabaya or Malang.
The local health agency in the East Java district of Situbondo said a community health center in the subdistrict of Mlandingan was prepared to accommodate depressed legislative candidates.
“We’ve prepared three rooms,” agency head Abu Bakar Abdi told tribunnews.com. “Aside from the rooms, we’ve also prepared medical workers.”
More than 6,600 candidates from 12 political parties will fight for 560 seats at the House of Representatives this year. For the entire legislative councils down to district and municipal level, a total of 19,699 seats will be fought over by approximately 200,000 candidates from throughout the archipelago, according to the General Elections Commission (KPU).
In the aftermath of the 2009 legislative elections, when parties began randomly recruiting legislative candidates to lure voters, the Indonesian media was packed with reports of depressed also-rans admitted to psychiatric wards, suffering public breakdowns and committing suicide. Most of the cases were attributed to losing in the elections after huge spending, which rendered many of the candidates heavily indebted.
To anticipate recurrence, Social Services Minister Salim Segaf Al-Jufri last month called on hospitals across the regions, particularly the mental health hospitals, to allocate special wards to treat such patients.
“We predict that there will be a lot of distressed legislative candidates, especially those who lose, after the elections,” Salim said, according to republika.co.id. “Therefore we’ve coordinated with local administrations and hospitals to prepare special wards.”