The Unlawful Chaining of the Mentally Ill in Indonesia

by Mickey Huff
Published: Updated:


Indonesia is still stuck in old ways when it comes to caring for and treating mental health patients. Even though the practice of chaining people up with psychological problems was banned in Indonesia forty years ago, about 19,000 people still live in those conditions. Indonesia lacks education on mental health, a government that is aware and supportive of fixing the problem, and the support services needed. “Pasung” means the shackling or confining of people with psychosocial disabilities. Over 57,000 people in Indonesia have experienced and dealt with pasung at least once in their life. During this treatment, they are subject to being chained up for an unlimited amount of time. Some people endure hours while others endure years. About 18,800 people are still currently enduring the practice. They are normally left naked and unwashed and outside during pasung. They are subject to the weather, diseases, hunger, etc.

Although the practice of pasung is legally banned, the enforcement of that law and the abolishment of the practice has not happened. Throughout 21 provinces 1,274 cases were reported in 2014 and 93% of people were rescued. That can be looked at as a success but when releasing mental health patients, leaving them to fend for themselves and integrate back into society is not an adequate plan. It is not even known whether the people freed were rehabilitated or just chained back up eventually. The amount of awareness, psychiatrists, and mental hospitals in Indonesia is not sufficient to deal with its pasung problem. People do not know what to do with these other people that need mental health care and need help so the easiest thing to do is restrain them and forget about them.


Sam Jones, “‘Living in Hell’: Mentally Ill People in Indonesia Chained and Confined,” The Guardian, March 20, 2016,

Student Researcher: Alexis Gosciniak, Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College