Dispelling myths, changing lives
Fresh off graduation from medical school more than 25 years ago, Tjhin Wiguna was part of a medical team that carried out immunisation jabs and health checkups for an aboriginal community residing near West Kalimantan, Borneo. There, he witnessed several health care issues plaguing the community – due to rumour mongering and a lack of education.
Despite the high prevalence of diseases like malaria and typhoid, parents refused to immunise their kids: there was a strong misconception that exposing children to needles caused fever, seizures and even death. Dr Tjhin, 56, decided to pursue child and adolescent psychiatry to better address such issues affecting children.
“The best part about being a child and adolescent psychiatrist is that I get to liaise with both the hospital and the general public,” he says. “It’s a middleman role, where I interact with the people from both sides and understand their perspectives to serve them better.”
Home to over 260 million people speaking more than 700 different languages, Indonesia with its diverse cultures also mean challenges, says Dr Tjhin. “Getting across a message to someone in Aceh is completely different from talking to someone in Lombok or Central Java,” he explains.“We must understand and respect the different cultures, and then reach out to people in the best way possible.”
The Programme in Post-Disaster Mental Health for Communities in Asia for China, Indonesia and Thailand has helped to create awareness among people – mainly on the fact that better mental health are in their hands. Originally focused on five provinces in Indonesia, the Programme was so successful that several other provinces were also roped in over time. “The effectiveness of the Programme in helping to address post-disaster recovery was so impactful that our trainers were invited to other parts of Indonesia to share their experiences,” Dr Tjhin says. “This is what medicine is about: caring and sharing for each other unconditionally.”
Participant from the Fakultas Kedokteran Universitas Indonesia in: Programme in Post-Disaster Mental Health for Communities in Asia by the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore, and Temasek Foundation International
Text by Prabhu Silvam
*More of such stories can be found in Temasek Foundation International's 10th anniversary commemorative book 'Leading Journeys: Inspirations for Asia and Beyond".