After the heartening remarks by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the tsunami-hit areas in Aceh were free of epidemics, the organization later announced that mental illnesses might affect about one-eight of the population ofthe devastated province.
"We expect that certain psychiatric disorders will increase. Weexpect that people will suffer from severe depression, anxiety, sleep disorders," Director of the WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Benedetto Saraceno, was quoted Wednesday by The Jakarta Post newspaper as saying.
"We may also witness some increase in suicide attempts, or in domestic violence...and it might affect 500,000 people."
Saraceno explained that the disorders might appear if the Acehnese could not resume their daily and economic activities immediately.
"Psychiatric disorders are closely related to economic and health recovery in Aceh. But mostly, they should be addressed withpsychosocial responses: empowering women, children, families and the communities in order to resume their resilience capacity," Saraceno said.
According to him, the threat might increase the number of suicides in the country, which is still considered low. He claimedthat the average number of deaths due to suicide in Indonesia is 24 deaths in every 100,000 population.
Saraceno stressed that the WHO was not against establishing a trauma center. But the efforts should be integrated into a complete health system, relying on community based treatment.
"Our experience in establishing trauma centers, in Cambodia andBosnia, were negative," he said.
He said that there were two things that had to be done. First was to train community leaders, women and people who were rooted in the community. Second, to strengthen health sector in Aceh, where currently there are only five psychiatrist living.