Aceh Governor Promises To Remove the Chains From the Mentally Ill

Banda Aceh, TAG - Muhammad Nur spent the last 15 years of his life chained up inside a damp hut in a corner of his family’s backyard in Keureweung village, Aceh Besar.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the case, however, is how common it is in rural Aceh, where hundreds of mentally ill people are thought to be similarly restrained by their families. 

That could soon end thanks to Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, who on Saturday removed the chains from the 45-year-old Nur, giving him a second chance at life and symbolically marking the start of a new initiative to secure proper hospital care for the province’s mentally ill residents. 

Nur’s older sister, Nurjannah, talked about how her brother came to spend so much of his life in chains. She said he would become aggressive, destroy property and hurt himself and others. The family couldn’t afford medication for him, so out of fear for the safety of Nur and others, and also out of embarrassment, they put him in wooden stocks. The family eventually added iron chains because Nur’s hands were still free to hurt himself and others. 

“Life was already hard for us, even without his condition,” Nurjannah said. 

Nur is now at Banda Aceh Mental Hospital, some 35 kilometers from his village, where he will receive treatment. 

Irwandi promised that his administration would do what it could to ensure there were no more Nurs. 

“We hope that [soon] no more mentally ill patients will be chained up or put in stocks in family backyards. The local government will take them to the mental hospital for proper treatment,” the governor said. 

“It’s a humanitarian mission because those with mental illnesses deserve proper treatment, just like the rest of us,” he said. 

Irwandi said that if people with psychiatric problems were kept shackled, not only would they deteriorate mentally, but they would also suffer physically. 

His administration has vowed that by the end of this year there will be no more reports of mentally ill people being kept in chains. Instead, they will be treated at Banda Aceh Mental Hospital, which has received financial aid from the central government and from Norway to help it provide proper care for patients.
Hospital director Saifuddin Abdurrahman said there were at least 200 people with mental problems in the province still being kept in chains by their families.
“The hospital will pick them up from their houses and transfer them to the hospital to undergo a preliminary examination,” he said.[]
Aceh Governor Promises To Remove the Chains From the Mentally Ill Aceh Governor Promises To Remove the Chains From the Mentally Ill Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on February 24, 2010 Rating: 5

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