In Indonesia, psychiatric disorders are little understood by the general population and are widely recognised, not as a physical issue, but superstitiously as an issue of the soul. Those affected are often locked up in cages by their families in a desperate attempt to stop them from hurting others or themselves.

Others are brought by their families to institutions such as the one featured in, Brazilian photographer, Dimitri Pilalis‘ images.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Indonesia spends only 2.36% of its overall national budget on health as a whole, with only 1% of that on mental health. When Pilalis visited an institution outside Jakarta, the lack of funding was very clear. He says, “They all appeared underfed, many were naked, and the old mixed with the young.” His images show patients being restrained by chains and locked in cages.

With 4.6% of Indonesia’s 240,000 population suffering from some form of mental health disorder, the country’s mere 500 psychiatrists are nowhere near sufficient. Pilalis explains, “The staff are unqualified people, mostly teenagers. In public hospitals they have nurse and doctor visits once a week.”

Pilalis’ work depicts a desperate situation and one that needs to be addressed, primarily by changing attitudes surrounding mental health disorders. His work was conducted during January and February 2012, in the metropolitan area of the capital Jakarta.

Written by Francesca Bassenger. Photography © Dimitri Pilalis.


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