Funded! This project was successfully funded on August 11, 2013.


In Indonesia, mental illness means that spirits have manifested your body. We will tell the stories of the spirited ones.

Stan and I are asking for your help to continue the task of documenting the state of mental health in Indonesia. I started doing research and photographing at several facilities in the beginning of 2013 and doors have opened to allow me to further my work with new contacts and institutions eager to tell their stories. 

The Situation:

Truthfully, being at many of these under-funded, under-staffed and run down facilities is awful. All ranges of mentally ill, from those that exhibit characteristics of schizophrenia to drug abusers to autistic patients, are subject to the perils of inadequate treatment. Some are shackled to the floor and have been for years. Many are constantly given herbs I have yet to identify which have a sedative effect on the patients. Still others suffer the humiliation and discomfort of living without clothes, toilets, or even shelter from the elements.

Indonesia is a developing country and its capital, Jakarta, is rapidly industrializing. Its infrastructure is made of the same skyscrapers, public squares, institutions, etc that we see in Western cities. This makes the contrast of these institutions all the more troubling.

This problem is unique and sensitive due to deeply ingrained cultural beliefs. As I mentioned in the video, insanity is often viewed as a manifestation of evil spirits. This serves the culture as a reason to, or justification for, sending their family members away and treating them with disdain. 

Progressive hospitals are respecting the traditional remedies and belief systems while practicing Western medicine where it is useful. They are also much more humane and sanitary in their practices. However, due to the low priority of mental health in the wake of industrialization, these are less prevalent than the smaller or independent clinics that often go under the radar.

Gabbie’s Photo Story:
I aim to produce a photo documentary, exploring several aspects of the current climate of mental illness treatment in Indonesia from traditional remedies, to private mental health institution, state run institutions and hybrid institution. I also will explore the problem that because diagnosis is rare, many people that face developmental disabilities and other genetic diseases are lumped into this category. I will be producing an exhibition, in addition to printing a small book to be used to submit this story for publication.

Stan’s Film:
I aim to pick several patients and tell their stories in the form of a short (10-25 minute) documentary. My intended goal is to relay their complicated narratives. This can only be a product of discovery upon my arrival aided by my research and preconceived understanding of the situation based on Gabbie’s insight. Ideally, the film will impact the policies and opinions of Indonesia, but will not be packaged as a cry for help, but as a window into the strange, tragic, and unique circumstances of these patients’ lives. This will be a self-contained film- not a pitch, a promo, or a request.

Our kickstarter will be used to cover the cost of producing and publishing these stories. It will pay for our travel expenses and accommodation, a small food stipend when outside Jakarta, and for the kickstarter expenses.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Because there is the question of access in every single site we are documenting, the rug could get pulled at any moment. As it stands, we have the permission from more than enough people to continue this venture. It is sensitive however, and many of the less developed facilities are leery of journalistic presence so we will need to continue being respectful of their situation.

In addition, as we have mentioned, the topic is very controversial and we must constantly remain aware that our standards and background cannot affect our judgements and interactions with the people we encounter.

Lastly, there is a language barrier and though Gabbie can speak some elementary Bahasa Indonesia, it is not sufficient to complete in depth interviews.

We trust that the connections we have made understand that we are open and approaching this topic in a non-judgmental manner. We plan to be forthcoming about our intentions and make it clear that we are sincerely documenting this issue. We will also hire a fixer/translator when necessary to interpret interviews for us.


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    8 backers

    A facebook cover photo taken of Jakarta by Gabbie and an invitation to our blog featuring updates of our project.

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    20 backers

    A postcard of a Gabriela Bhaskar photograph from Indonesia with a hand written note sent from Jakarta! These images will be of interesting or beautiful aspects of Indonesia society or daily life.

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    19 backers

    A signed, 8in x 12in matted print of a Gabriela Bhaskar photograph from Indonesia. These images will depict interesting or beautiful aspects of Indonesia society and culture.

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    7 backers

    A beautiful handmade cushion cover and a coin purse from Tulen Tropis. Tulen Tropis is a home clothing brand that Gabbie and her business partner, Paula have started. Together they design products inspired by their travels using Indonesia batiks and fabrics, handmade by local Independent Indonesian tailors who are fairly compensated for their work.

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    4 backers

    There's a double whammy: (1) A framed instagram tripyct, a set of 3!!! Gabriela Bhaskar photographs. These images will be a complimentary set of images taken in Indonesia depicting daily lives, natures and Indonesian culture. (2) A producer credit in Stan's film(s) about this issue.

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    1 backer

    A 30cm x 30cm Canvas print of a Gabriela Bhaskar photograph AND an EXECUTIVE producer mention in Stan's film(s).

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Funding period

- (26 days)