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Indonesia launches mental health hotline service

Covid-19 pandemic has brought psychological pressures that need to be addressed, govt says

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Indonesia launches mental health hotline service

Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko says people are facing uncertainty. (Photo: Office of the Presidential Chief of Staff/KSP)

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The Indonesian government has launched a hotline service to support people’s mental health needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Called the Psychological Services for Mental Health (Sejiwa), the program involves at least 162 volunteer psychologists from the Indonesian Psychology Association (HIMPSI) who will listen to the concerns of people with or without the coronavirus and refer them to at least 522 psychologists from across the country for further counseling. 

The service can be accessed via the National COVID-19 Hotline number — 119. 

“Sejiwa is very important because people are facing an uncertain situation. It has worsened because of false reports on social media. So, we have to take the initiative,” Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko said on April 29.

According to Moeldoko, the pandemic has brought increased psychological distress within the population.

He cited data from the Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice which recorded 58 cases of physical and sexual violence, including domestic violence, from March 16-30.

A combination of economic and social pressure brought on by the pandemic had dramatically increased the number of women and girls being subjected to abuse across the world, including Indonesia, he said.

“A national psychological service is necessary to ensure the mental health of people is looked after,” Moeldoko added.

Seger Handoyo, chairman of the HIMPSI, said the implementation of large-scale social-distancing restrictions had caused degrees of psychological distress.

They include staying at home, bans on gatherings and limited public transport. Although initially imposed for 14 days, the government extended the restrictions period for another 28 days on April 22. 

“Some can cope with this crisis, some cannot. Those who suffer from any emotional disorder need help,” he said.

Nursita Tyasutami, one of the first two Indonesians to contract Covid-19, said the service would play a significant role in taking care of people’s mental health.

She said she was really shocked to learn she had tested positive for the coronavirus. Worse, she had to face the pressure of notoriety after her identity was revealed and received unwanted attention from the media and public.

“I couldn’t handle it, even after I had recovered. But a psychologist who knew a friend of mine helped me deal with it,” she said.

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