Throughout Indonesia people who have a perceived or actual mental illness can be held indefinitely in impossible conditions. Many are shackled or confined in cells, cages, and animal pens. This widespread custom is called pasung. Banned by the government since 1977, pasung continues to be the traditional response to perceived or actual psychosocial disabilities, a practice worse then a jail sentence. Most criminal incarcerations have release dates.
Pasung is imposed out of desperation by caregivers and family members unable to afford or access mental healthcare, who fear medications, hospitals, addiction and/or the stigma linked to a diagnosed mental illness. Commonly caregivers feel pasung is a necessary step to protect the family and community, as well as the individual they confine.
I have been reporting on people with psychosocial disabilities in Indonesia since 2011 photographing numerous mental rehabilitation shelters, faith-based healing centers, and homes. My ongoing work triggered a Human Rights Watch investigation resulting in the 2016 report and multimedia LIVING IN HELL. Since then Indonesia’s Parliament and it’s Ministry of Health have instituted reforms including a neighborhood door-to-door outreach and intervention program implemented by local clinics. However in numerous shelters and healing centers little has changed.
Andrea Star Reese, a documentary photojournalist based in New York /Jakarta, is a member of Woman Photograph, a Visura GUILD photographer, a reGeneration2 photographer, and a 2010 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow.
In 2016 Disorder, an on-going documentary report on men and women with real or perceived psychosocial disabilities in Indonesia received The Lucie Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year Award, a Julia Margaret Cameron Award and the Best Portfolio on Human Rights_Berlin Foto Biennale Documentary Award. Ms Reese has been published around the world including credits to: CNN, Time, Huffington Post, The Guardian, BBC News Alerts, AlJazeera, New York Times Lens Blog, among others.