Psychiatric community care: Belgian town sets gold standard
There’s nowhere on Earth quite like the town of Geel, a foster-care centre for psychiatric patients
By Karin Wells, CBC News Posted: Mar 09, 2014
In the obscure little Flemish town of Geel in Belgium, Dis and Luc sit at the dinner table squabbling. Luc is going to camp for 10 days, Dis for only five.
Dis’s voice gets more and more shrill. Toni Smit, their foster mother, says quietly, “Dis gets jealous.” But after a few minutes they get up and together they clear the supper table.
Luc is 48 and suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. He was shunted off into a psychiatric hospital after his father died.
“He hated it,” she says, butLuc eventually wound up in Geel, where he has lived with Smit and her husband for the past seven years.
Dis is 89, and no one even labels his psychiatric disorder. He came to Geel in 1938 and lived with one family through three generations. Then he came to live with Smit.
“They are part of the family – we love them,” she says.
Hundreds of families in Geel take in psychiatric patients; people who suffer from schizophrenia, from obsessive compulsive disorder, serious mental illnesses. About half of “the boarders” as they are known, also have what is described as “a mild mental handicap.”
Families in Geel have been looking after mentally ill people for centuries. When the numbers were at their highest in the late 1930s, there were 3,800 psychiatric patients living with families in Geel, a town at the time of only 15,000. A quarter of the town was noticeably mentally ill.
The tradition continues today. A young woman dressed like some sort of ragged angel scurries past on the street; a few minutes later a man with a vacant gaze wanders by muttering to himself. No one bats an eye.
“We are known all over the country as the place where there are insane people.” says tour guide Alex Martens. “There’s also an expression instead of saying you’re crazy. You can say you belong in Geel.”
There really is nowhere on Earth quite like it. Geel has become the gold standard of community care of psychiatric patients, and it’s a model that others are starting to adopt.
Books have influenced my life in many ways. Whether that be by providing me with comfort, new information or an adventure, reading had always been there for me.
The following was originally meant for Facebook but I wanted to share it with you here and I thought some of you may like it as well
RULES: In your status update, list 10 books/stories that have had an impact on your life. Don’t take too long on this list – just a few minutes. These don’t have to be acclaimed works or your all-time favourites, just ones that mean something to you personally. Then tag 5 or more of your friends, including me so I can see your list.
1. Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
2. Wonder Woman: Love and Murder by Jodi Picoult
3. In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton
4. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
5. Let Them Eat Prozac by David Healy
6. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
7. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
8. The Cider House Rules by John Irving
9. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
10. The Virgin Suicide by Jeffrey Eugenides
It appears in my mind with it’s shackles.
The thought keeps me bound,
keeps me stuck and stranded in it’s misery.
I trudge along but only as far as the length of chain
and it’s not that long.
I can’t get away.
Is it true?
Is it lying?
FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).
It’s one of those mornings where you wake up and you say to yourself, “Why? Why did I have to wake up?”
I can bounce back from this, don’t get me wrong. I guess I’m just trying to “welcome” these feelings. Ha, even when I type that I laugh and say “bullshit” to myself.
Fight last night.
I wonder if I’m right or have “good reason” for getting upset. To the extent that I can I know isn’t appropriate but a major instigator of how upset I get is whether or not I feel validated in my reason. In my eyes that doesn’t happen often, if at all.
I know it’s not supposed to be about winning or losing, right or wrong but for years I have just been bending over backwards, giving everything and getting nothing, that I would just love it if for once someone could say to me, “You know? You’re right, I’m very sorry I did that.”
I know I say that a lot.
I couldn’t even explain this properly, you really have to be there in the moment probably.
To my credit, I did remain fairly calm during the fight. I didn’t start crying and such until I felt that I had exhausted myself and wasn’t getting anywhere.
I feel hopeless but I know that in typical Kristen fashion none of this will matter in a few hours. A flip will be switched and I won’t care. I am limitless in the amount of pain I will put myself through because I can so easily shrug it off. I dwell on the stupid stuff, let it tear me apart, but forget the important. I think that’s how I stay “safe”.
Time for a guided meditation.
I have had time to write, I just haven’t wanted to.
Nothing to say really.
I ditched a toxic friend yesterday so I feel fantastic. It’s one of those “friends” where you know you should have cut them off years ago but you kept going with it because that’s what you’re used to. Ditching them doesn’t hurt me one bit. Well, I’m annoyed because they believe that they’re right when that is totally not the case but I’m going to let that go.
I’m eventually getting a medication review, just waiting for a phone call.
I’m doing fine on 75 mg of Effexor.
I’ve been doing belly breathing which I learned in meditation. Really fast and easy way to relax and I find myself doing it regardless of what is going on. It’s just nice to feel relaxed.
Here’s a fun picture to end this post right!
Originally posted on Marci, Mental Health, & More:
I forgot I had written this!
This list was written when I was experiencing extreme agitation and didn’t know what to do. I believe I had not yet started taking Seroquel full time. This incident had influenced my decision to do so.
Originally written: September 9, 2013
These are the songs I’ve been singing to try and get some of that agitated energy out!
The Phoenix by Fall Out Boy
Defying Gravity by Glee
Last Name by Glee
Take Me or Leave Me by Rent
Trouble by Taylor Swift
Miss Jackson by Panic At the Disco
Tonight is my last night of speaking with Young Ones at Ryerson University in a course about Canadian Homelessness. My colleague and I share our mental health stories to demonstrate our struggles and how experiencing homelessness was not far off for us and would have made things way more difficult. We speak alongside an amazing group called The Dream Team who are consumer/survivors who advocate for supportive housing all over Ontario.
With this being my fourth night of speaking, of recounting how I came to be who I am today in front of 20+ students, I’m sure you can imagine that I am emotionally drained. Sometimes I have been so emotionally drained I think about not speaking ever again. When I get like that I am asked by friends and family why I keep doing if it sometimes hurts me. The accumulation of the last three nights of speaking I feel illustrates perfectly why I keep speaking.
The first night my colleague and I had a young woman approach us after and begin to cry as she told us that she experiences severe anxiety and needed extra support but didn’t know where to look. We told her to come to our peer support group anytime. She said she will and we exchanged hugs.
The second night we chatted with a young man who asked us great questions during the Q & A and expressed repeatedly who much he appreciated us sharing our stories and again we exchanged hugs.
The third night we met two young women who have lived experience and were interested in volunteering and attending Group. I was fortunate enough to travel home on the subway with them and learn more about their experiences.
Many more approached us wanting to volunteer for our upcoming Gala and thank us for sharing our stories (one young woman said she learned more about mental health from us than she has from any textbook).
This is why I keep speaking. I have begun to moderate how much I speak to avoid burn out but to many are silenced and if I’m willing to put myself out there to move people into action then that is what I will do. It means so much to me to have others share their stories with me and/or support their interest in improving our mental health system and societal view. This is what I wanted to do when I first decided to become a social worker in gr. 10. I never dreamed I would be doing it and I don’t think I could properly explain how happy I am to have achieved this and have done so in a way I never imagined.