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Jakarta Post

As elderly population grows, so does mental illness

  • Nadya Natahadibrata

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, October 12, 2013   /  09:48 am

As the country'€™s population of older people grows, the government is being pushed to provide better mental health facilities for the elderly, who are at higher risk of developing mental disorders.

The head of the Health Ministry'€™s intelligence center, Eka Viora, said that increasing life expectancy meant that the population aged 60 and over with mental disorders was also growing. '€œThe longer a person lives, the greater his or her risk of developing a disease or condition that could trigger dementia, insomnia or depression, for instance,'€ Eka said during an event commemorating World Mental Health Day on Thursday.

'€œLoneliness is also one of the main causes of mental disorder.'€

The mental health of the elderly was the theme of this year'€™s World Mental Health Day, which falls every Oct. 10.

In 2020, approximately 28.8 million people in Indonesia, or 11.34 percent of the projected population, will be aged over 60, up from 24 million (9.7 percent) in 2010 and 11.3 million (7.4 percent) in 2000.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the total number of people with dementia worldwide is projected to almost double every 20 years, to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.

Nova Riyanti Yusuf, member of House of Representatives Commission IX overseeing health and welfare affairs, said that the government should expand its coverage of basic mental health services, primarily in community health centers (Puskesmas). '€œThere are only around 1,500 Puskesmas out of more than 9,400 in the country that provide mental health services, and we only have around 809 psychiatrists to serve a population of more than 240 million,'€ Nova told reporters on Thursday.

'€œThe government should provide incentives for doctors to study mental health to draw more of them to the field,'€ Nova said.

Tun Kurniasih Bastaman, chairwoman of the Indonesian Psychiatric Association (IPA), said that geriatric psychiatry was not widely available in the country. '€œThere are very few mental hospitals or general hospitals that provide mental health services specifically for the elderly '€” Lawang Mental Hospital and Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital (RSCM) to name a couple,'€ Tun said.

'€œIn the meantime, the Health Ministry should provide continuous training sessions for Puskesmas health workers, be it the doctors or the nurses, so they are equipped with a basic knowledge in mental health to help handle the increasing number of older people with mental disorders.'€

Data from the 2007 Basic Health Research (Riskesdas) conducted by the Health Ministry shows that more than 1 million people in Indonesia are at high risk of developing severe mental illness, but that only around 3.5 percent of those individuals, or around 35,000 people, had received treatment in mental hospitals.

Data from the ministry shows that some provinces lacked any sort of facility for treating patients with mental illness. Seven provinces, including Banten, Gorontalo and East Nusa Tenggara, still have no mental hospitals.

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