We’ve started to tackle the most important thing in our life, which is our rights as a human being, our rights to be recognized as a person in front of law.
Yeni Rosa Damayanti is a fierce and visionary advocate for persons with psychosocial disabilities and is also a women’s rights activist. At home in Indonesia and in global venues, she speaks about how persons with psychosocial disabilities are highly stigmatized.
Yeni and the organization she founded, the Indonesian Mental Health Association (IMHA) or Perhimpunan Jiwa Sehat in Bahasa, has established a platform to begin shifting community and governmental attitudes away from institutional and medically focused interventions towards community-based and user-led services that support a rights-based approach aligned with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Being the first and only organization in Indonesia led by persons with psychosocial disabilities, IMHA plays a groundbreaking and critical role in promoting the rights of this particularly marginalized group. They are fighting against inhumane practices and violence —seclusion, involuntary medical treatments, caging, and shackling — forced on persons with psychosocial disabilities.
Supported by the Disability Rights Fund and Disability Rights Advocacy Fund since 2013, IMHA has led campaigns to shift societal attitudes on mental health from a charity based or medically based approach to viewing persons with psychosocial disabilities as rights holders within the human rights framework.
In 2017, the organization received a DRAF grant to promote change to laws and policies to end the legal basis for prolonged confinement and physical constraint of persons with psychosocial disabilities in Indonesia, and to advocate for the creation of university-based services to ensure better access to education for persons with psychosocial disabilities.
Previously invisible and at times shunned by other civil society organizations, IMHA has become an integral part of the wider disability movement. They have successfully advocated to the General Elections Commission for the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities to vote. They are a member of the National Coalition that drafted the national Bill on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted by government in 2016.
With collective voices raised from their partners in the disability community, legal aid organizations, women and human rights organizations, Yeni and her organization hope that their advocacy will create changes in policy, laws, and society that end violence and inhuman treatment against persons with psychosocial disabilities. She says
Our fight is becoming very meaningful and strong because we are now a part of the disability movement.
Read more on the UN Human Rights website: “Mental Health is a Human Right”