Wasti Atmodjo, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar
A recent study suggests one out of five teenagers in Denpasar has suffered from depression or other serious mental illnesses over the last six months.
The survey, conducted by psychiatrist Lely Setyawati at senior high schools in Denpasar, came about after Lely worked with teenagers at Amerta Youth Center, a clinic for teens at Sanglah Hospital.
She said teenagers coming to the clinic were frustrated with various problems, ranging from conflict with parents, boyfriends or girlfriends to inability to escape bad living environments.
In the survey of 500 teens from Denpasar, said Lely, many teens admitted feeling sad and unhappy much of the time.
Others said they were easily tired, had little spirit, found it hard to concentrate, had no self-confidence and felt useless. Many felt uncertain about their futures.
Lely called these feelings the symptoms of serious depression, and said she was surprised by the findings.
"It turned out that almost 20 percent of respondents were suffering from depression. This was beyond my prediction."
She said she planned to expand her survey to other parts of Bali.
"From the survey we at least know the teenage situation in Denpasar is not much different from that in other big cities. The different is, social control is still high in Bali, such as from members of banjar neighborhood unit, making many teenagers slow to display inappropriate behavior.
"Unfortunately, the same social control makes teenagers reluctant to consult psychologists when they are facing problems," Lely said.
Child psychiatrist Endah Ardjana, the teen center's coordinator, said teens were at the age when a person not be considered neither a child nor a grown-up.
"Teenagers are in the transition period," she said. "They often experience unstable mental conditions."
Currently, the center assists youngsters overcome drug addiction, survive physical and sexual abuse and work through premature sexual relations.
Endah said most teens seeking assistance at the center had serious cases of depression, likely due to their feelings of shame in telling their stories or consulting experts.
Both Lely and Endah regularly visit junior and senior high schools to spread awareness on the need to maintain physical and mental health, and to aware of the consequences of sexual activity.
They also inform teens about the center, which promises confidentiality and offers the services of a team of specialists, including gynecologists and psychiatrists.