A close look into the projects of Solemen
Bali is known for its beautiful landscapes and great ambiance, but behind the beauty of this paradise is a side that few get to witness. Mental health is a problem globally. In most developed countries there is a lot of knowledge about the care and rehabilitation that goes into caring for those who suffer. This is not the case in Bali. In developed countries there are specialist programmes to assist people suffering from enduring mental health issues. Although the mental health care is slowly getting better, there is still a lot that has to change. In Indonesia, programmes are still being developed, but sadly people often spend their lives in chains or cages. Solemen has a psychologist on hand who travels with the Outreach team to assess the SoleBuddies, and provide them with an accurate diagnosis, as well as the vital healthcare they need to maintain stable wellbeing. Here you can read the personal stories of these people, and have a close look at Solemen’s projects.
Armijn is a young gentleman of 38 who came under the care of Solemen about three years ago. He is originally from Java, where he was living with his mom, dad and sister. Armijn has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.His condition caused him to believe his sister was a snake. As a result, the family chained him to a tree for 18 months, because he was so agressive towards her.
The family then decided that they would bring Armijn over to Bali for a new start. He was not chained when Solemen met him but, still very unpredictable and restless. The family still had to lock him up when they were going away from home. Solemen’s outreach team started paying regular visits to Armijn and began administering medication to keep him calm. It was a long process, but he eventually settled. The family, at that point, were living on a tiny piece of land in a shack. Now, Armijn’s father loans land from a farmer, where they grow vegetables like eggplants, kangkung, papaya and cucumber. They use the veggies for their own consumption and to sell at the local market. They have regular orders, so this is their main source of income. Since Solemen have been providing Armijn with vital and regular healthcare, he and his family are living much happier lives, and Armijn even helps his parents with the vegetables. His sister will come to Bali soon, because she is not afraid of him anymore. Despite their history, this family is really close and loveable and have a stable future ahead of them.
Noto is in his early forties and also diagnosed with schizophrenia, a common mental health problem in Bali. Noto has been unwell since he was a teenager, and was in his early twenties when he was first diagnosed. According to his family, he was always a bit different. All through his youth, he was in and out of hospital. During his hospital stays, he would become settled and be discharged with medication. He would stop the medication once he was home, because he felt better. But without the medication, he became very aggressive again and his family was scared of him. It was a vicious circle, and the family gave up on him. Noto was kept chained in a tiny room that used to be a toilet, for more than twenty years. The family brought him back and forth to the hospital, but when he returned home, he ended up back on the chain because he would become aggressive, especially toward his mum. Noto was very aggressive when Solemen first met him. After the Outreach team gave him the health care and medication he needed, he gradually got easier. Now the Solemen team gets him out of his room and brings him medication, lunch and coffee every week.
Noto’s mum does her best to care for him, but she is elderly and frail. Unfortunately, the rest of the family aren’t as supportive and see Noto as troublesome. Even though his mum wants the best for him, sadly, there is no other option for her than to lock him up. On occasion, Noto has left his room and caused trouble throughout the village. Before Solemen got involved, he broke out and it took fifteen men to bring him back. Solemen is hoping that they can get him out for a couple of hours each week to get a coffee and go for a walk. He is still unpredictable, but Solemen hope to make his and his family’s lives a little easier, and will continue working with them for as long as they need to.
Wayan is in his early forties, and is Solemen’s first mental health patient. He was found in a cage, sitting curled up in the corner, naked. He had no bed and no running water. He has two teenage sons, who were around the house when he was locked up. Besides the mental health issues Wayan was dealing with, he also had physical issues that resulted in him needing abdominal surgery. Wayan underwent surgery. They also renovated the house, so Wayan wouldn’t have to live in a cage anymore. Unfortunately, Wayan ended up back living with his mum and sister. His sister sadly also has schizophrenia, which caused conflict and tension between the family. Wayan is a quiet person, while his sister is very energetic. He was having a hard time dealing with his sister, which resulted in him becoming aggressive and seriously injuring his mum. After a few other incidents, Wayan was sent to a psychiatric hospital, so he could be monitored 24/7. Solemen and the Outreach team visit him consistently to ensure he is compliant with his medication. He is working now, collecting plastic bottles, so he can make his own money.
*The names of the people are fictitious to respect their privacy
Written by: Janne van Heesch & Roselyn van den Berg