Øystein Solvang/NHD

Some Facts about Suicide in Indonesia

Suicides continue to be a problem in Indonesia. This year, the country ranks 65 with 2.9 suicides per 100,000.

Previously, in 2015 Indonesia’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported that there were at least 812 suicides nationwide. It further highlighted that the real number of suicides, including those that were unreported, was surely and significantly higher. Central Java was the highest contributor to this number with a total of 331 reported suicides. East Java followed with a total of 119 reported cases.

In 2016, the World Health Organization also revealed that Indonesia was ranked eighth among ASEAN countries in terms of suicide rate, where approximately 10,000 people committed suicide in a year in the region, which equates to about one self-inflicted death per hour. In the following year, suicide deaths in Indonesia reached 7,355 or 0.44% of total deaths.

These suicides are not only carried out by young adults but also by children and teenagers. Gunung Kidul regency in Yogyakarta, for example, is known as an area with a high rate of child and teenager suicides for the past five years in Indonesia. A note by Wahana Komunikasi Lintas Spesialis magazine mentions that the suicide rate in Gunung Kidul regency was nine in every 100,000. For comparison, the suicide rate in the capital was only 1.2 cases in every 100,000.

Various Factors

Although economic factors could be singled out as a prime motive for suicide, child/teenager suicide forces us to look beyond these factors. Children are forced to face a complex reality beyond their emotional control and capacity to overcome certain life problems and when cornered, they decide to choose “shortcuts” to find solutions.

In 2015, the then Social Minister, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, said that “today, 40 percent of children who commit suicide do so because of bullying.” Khofifah thus called on all educational institutions to put a stop to the culture of student bullying.

Wife abuse is also one of the most significant causes of suicide. 11% of suicidal cases in Indonesia are female suicides. This is in line with a number of studies that highlight strong correlations between domestic violence and suicidal ideations.

Refugees also contribute to the reality of suicides in Indonesia. Asylum seekers who fled war and prosecutions to reach Indonesia have often been told that there is almost no chance for them to permanently settle in the country. Many deal with depression and suicidal thoughts as they struggle to continue with their lives.

Indonesia provides temporary shelter to 13,800 registered refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Myanmar. As it is not a signatory to the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention, those seeking protection are forbidden to work and are only allowed to stay temporarily until they are resettled in a third country.

One case sample is the 22-year-old Hayat, an ethnic minority Hazara from Afghanistan, who had spent four years in an immigration detention centre in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province. Having fled Afghanistan at the age of 18, it was reported that he was not mentally strong enough to cope with his circumstances, and decided to hang himself. On January 5 this year, another refugee from Afghanistan, tormented by depression and financial problems, took his own life, leaving behind his wife and his three-year-old son.

Another group of people in Indonesia who commit suicide is those with mental problems. This is mainly caused by the fact that hospitals, clinics and psychiatrists frequently fail to accurately diagnose individuals with mental health issues. Sometimes, they do not judge seriously if someone has the tendency to commit suicide. This is also made worse by the negative stigma attached to people with mental problems which prevents them from getting necessary help.

Putting an End

With these conditions, it is very clear that the problem of suicide in Indonesia requires real, serious, and genuine efforts by both the government and the whole society.

Strengthening social bonds among the people would enable people to share their concerns with others which is crucial. Many who have a tendency to commit suicide are usually feeling lonely and have nobody to support nor hear their concerns. By refining social relations among people, those with suicidal feelings would be able to share their problems with others and to find solutions together.

There is also a need to ensure that other causes of suicide, such as intense school bullying, are prevented. In this case, the roles of teachers and psychologists are crucial. The then Indonesian Social Minister, Parawansa, said that teachers should play a more active role in strengthening students’ characters to prevent bullying.

Educational establishments also need to raise awareness not only about the negative impact of bullying, but also the importance of taking care of those who have mental challenges.

Solutions for the causes of suicides are also necessary in order to minimise the growing phenomenon of domestic violence. While the government has attempted to do so through legislative measures, more concrete efforts are required such as sternly punishing the perpetrators and an improved reporting system for the victims.

No less important is the need for Indonesia to give more attention to refugees or asylum seekers in the country. Signing the UN’s Refugee Convention could be a starting point, followed by other strategies to welcome and protect these people.

The government in Jakarta needs to be aware that if it does not act promptly and firmly to protect refugees and asylum seekers, it will have a much tougher job to recover the country’s human rights record.