Mental Health and Human Rights: The Role of Komnas HAM
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In recent years, Indonesia has sought to protect the rights of individuals with mental illness through revised legislation, greater investment in community health organizations and increased awareness of discrimination against individuals with psychosocial disabilities. While the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2011, the passage of the Mental Health Act in 2014 and the enactment of Law No. 8 on Persons with Disabilities in 2016 have bolstered legal protections for individuals with mental illness, the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has served to identify and investigate human rights violations against individuals with psychosocial disabilities. Moreover, the “Indonesia Bebas Pasung” campaign, which aims to eliminate the practice of shackling or confining individuals with a mental illness, has helped shine a spotlight on the intersections of mental health and human rights.
Despite these advancements, Komnas HAM remains limited in its ability to protect mentally ill individuals and their families. First, Komnas HAM lacks an effective, easily accessible system for citizens to report human rights violations. As a result, mental health professionals and community organizations have developed independent reporting systems, such as Makpasol and e-pasung, that remain disconnected from national efforts to protect human rights. Second, while the “Bebas Pasung” campaign has reinvigorated community investment in protecting individuals with mental illness, the campaign’s emphasis on documenting and eliminating human rights violations has eclipsed its efforts to enact comprehensive mental health reform. Similarly, Komnas HAM has focused primarily on protecting the “negative” rights of individuals with mental illness by responding to reports of discrimination and abuse, giving less attention to ensuring the “positive” rights of all citizens to mental health education and accessible services.
Komnas HAM can have a greater impact on the Indonesian society by strengthening its connections with regional organizations and by focusing on both the “negative” and “positive” rights of individuals affected by psychosocial disabilities. Through coordination with mental health professionals, social workers and community members, Komnas HAM can build a wider network for protecting individuals and communities affected by mental illness.
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