80% of mental disorders in Aceh caused by the trauma of violence

Detik.com – November 3, 2004
Acehnese child suffering from post-traumatic stress (Merdeka)
Acehnese child suffering from post-traumatic stress (Merdeka)

Nur Raihan, Banda Aceh – The raging armed conflict in Aceh has left behind a huge trauma for the Acehnese people. As a result, some 80 per cent of people suffering mental disorders are because they had witnessed incidents of violence first hand.

“In general the they usually experience [such] trauma after witnessing shootings or killings [which have occurred] right before their eyes. This is based on the results of a survey by the Aceh Health Department”, explained the head of the agency, Dr Mulya A. Hasjimi, to journalists in Banda Aceh on Wednesday November 3.

Hasjimi added that some 25.7 per cent of these people were suffering from depression, 18.4 per cent from panic attacks, 16 per cent because they had consumed psychotropic drugs, 7.7 percent were suffering from stress related disorders and around 1.3 per cent had developed problems of alcohol or drug dependency.

The largest number of people suffering mental disorders was in the eastern region of Aceh, from the regencies of Pidie, Bireuen, North Aceh Utara, East Aceh through to Langsa City, which in general has experienced significant levels of violence. He also added that Banda Aceh, as the provincial capital, also has a high percentage of people suffering from mental disorders, if not the highest.

This data was obtained from the Aceh Health Department after it conducted a survey in 11 regencies/cities in Aceh.

In order to deal with the problem, Hasjimi said that the health department had been training medical staff, members of the public and religious leaders “To identify potential sufferers. An addition to this we are also conducting counseling for people who are suffering mental disorders”, he said.

“We are also providing training to school teachers to recognise the early symptoms, mental disorders in young children”, said Hasjimi.(mar)

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski.]