Mental health services in Indonesia are developing rapidly in response to national and global health policy to support people living with psychosis. This presents a unique opportunity for civic engagement, the active involvement of patients, carers and communities in mental health care, to shape emergent services. In-depth explorations of the views of professionals and other key stakeholders in mental health care on the use of civic engagement in Indonesia are lacking which contributes to a limited understanding of its potential in this regard. The study aimed to explore contemporary professionals’ and other key stakeholders’ perspectives on the current use of and potential for civic engagement to strengthen mental health systems in Indonesia.
Qualitative interviews were undertaken and analysed using thematic analysis underpinned by a critical realist approach. Eighteen multi-disciplinary professionals and lay health workers involved in mental health care in Jakarta and Bogor and 10 national key stakeholders were recruited.
Despite high levels of awareness of and support for civic engagement amongst mental health professionals and policy makers combined with a nascent grass roots movement, analysis revealed unstructured and insufficient mechanisms for civic engagement which resulted in ad-hoc and mostly superficial levels of involvement activity. Civic engagement was thought to require a marked shift in existing practices as well as organisational and societal cultures. Challenging stigma is a key feature of civic engagement and our analysis highlights the relevance of social contact methods which are locally and culturally contextualised in this regard. Our findings point to a need to expand current definitions of civic engagement which focus on indivdiual enablement to ones that also encompass environmental and organisational enablement to optimise the future use of civic engagement in mental health settings.
Key mental health stakeholders have identified that central aspects of Indonesian culture are well aligned to the ethos of civic engagement which has the potential to facilitate the enactment of recent global health policy. However, full realisation is likely to be impeded by prevailing paternalistic cultures in mental health services and high levels of stigma and discrimination towards those with mental illness in Indonesia without intervention.