Deputy Human Rights Ombudsman Silverio Baptista Pinto has appealed to all people to respect the rights of those suffering from mental illnesses.

Pinto said sufferers’ family members were most likely to discriminate.  

"To decrease discrimination, we are asking the communities and family members of those suffering mental illnesses to show these people respect and to treat their rights and dignity as equal to others in the family; do not discriminate against them,” he said.  

He said the government planned to enact laws prohibiting discrimination against the mentally ill.

Psychosocial Recovery and Development in East Timor (PRADET) executive director Manuel Soares said mental illness sufferers were subject not only to discrimination but also violence. 

"Our data from Liquisa and Baucau shows that there are two mothers there who are suffering from mental illnesses who are beaten by men,” he said.  

He said he believed these were not isolated incidents but that this was a situation repeated all over the country.  

PRADET would continue to conduct awareness campaigns to encourage people to treat sufferers with respect, he said. 

Resident Maria da Silva said education was key to shaping people’s way of thinking and to influence them to respect sufferers who she said had the right to live in peace and harmony.  

"These cases happen often, particularly in remote areas, but it is not accurately reported,” she said.