Indonesian healthcare agency takes down mental health PSA featuring Joker following threat of lawsuit

Screenshots of BPJS Kesehatan’s controversial Joker post via Kompas
Screenshots of BPJS Kesehatan’s controversial Joker post via Kompas

Controversy has followed Joker all around the world following (and even before) the film’s cinematic release last week, and it has also sparked a controversy related to mental health in Indonesia.

At the height of the film’s popularity, Indonesia’s Health Care and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan) last week posted on Facebook what they might have thought as a well-meaning PSA, but one which saw them being accused of insensitivity towards people with mental health conditions.

The post features an image of Joker (the Joaquin Phoenix version) with an accompanying text that reads, “JKN-KIS (National Health Insurance-Indonesia Health Card) covers people with mental health issues… so that no more Jokers would be created.”

The post was heavily panned on social media, mainly for the implied notion that everybody with mental health issues are on the same path to becoming a nihilistic and anarchistic villain like the Joker.

But several mental health and human rights activist groups, such as Sehat Jiwa Indonesia (Sejiwa), Bipolar Care Indonesia and Amnesty International Indonesia took further action against BPJS Kesehatan by threatening to sue the agency over the Joker post.

In an open letter to BPJS Kesehatan, as published by Kompas yesterday, the activists called on the agency to remove the Joker post and issue a public apology.

“It’s important the the public is aware that stigma like this should not be held on to. People with those conditions, such as those who are psychopathic or narcissistic, may not necessarily become criminals. They can go into therapy so they don’t show their destructive tendencies. There are hundreds of mental health conditions, and not all of them have potential [to create Jokers],” Meidy, a representative of Sejiwa, told Kompas.

The activists also said they would file a class action lawsuit against BPJS Kesehatan if the agency does not comply with their demands.

BPJS Kesehatan has complied with one of the demands as the Joker post was removed yesterday.

“It has been deleted. We want information conveyed by a public institution like BPJS Kesehatan to be clear and received with a single interpretation,” BPJS Kesehatan spokesman M Iqbal Anas Ma’ruf told Kompas yesterday.

Iqbal said the agency decided to utilize Joker in the PSA to capitalize on the film’s popularity in order to get their message out.

As of the time of writing, BPJS Kesehatan has not issued a public apology for the Joker post, but the agency this morning posted this controversy-free PSA on mental health to coincide with World Mental Health Day today.

Jika kamu atau orang terdekatmu membutuhkan pelayanan untuk masalah kesehatan mental, Program JKN-KIS menjamin…

BPJS Kesehatan 发布于 2019年10月9日周三

Read also: Shackled for years, now free: Indonesia helps people with mental conditions find new lives

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