Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Miracle at Geel, Belgium

Picture of the legendary St. Dymphna, patron saint of the mentally ill. Note the sword. Her mentally ill father beheaded her. Originally from Ireland, she was a Christian and escaped from her mad father, a pagan warlord, and traveled to Geel, Belgium. This was in the 600s. Her father had lost his wife and wanted to marry someone who looked like her. In his madness, he chose his daughter. He finally caught up with her in Geel.

This post is a follow-up to Sunday's post titled Dishonesty in Psychiatry.

I've always felt the best treatment for a person in crisis is Home Treatment. Stay in the home of a kind caring person who will dote on you, feed you, talk to you, comfort you.

Several years ago a woman in our group - 'Yvonne' - was desperately depressed. Her husband had died years ago so she had no one. She didn't like her current psychiatrist so I drove her to someone new at Southampton Psychiatric Associates.

It was a terrible experience. He would not medicate her and wanted to hospitalize her on the spot, something she was vehemently against. There was absolutely no need. She was not suicidal just exhibiting classic signs of depression.

We ended up going back to her original psychiatrist. Sitting in Larry's office, I said, "A depressed person should never be alone in their home. Let me call my mom and see if Yvonne can stay with her. I think they'll like each other."

Sure enuf, mom said it was okay. Larry told me this is what they do in Geel.

It was the winter. I drove Yvonne to her Dresher PA home - she now lives in Ann's Choice assisted living - we packed her bags and moved her into my mother's house.

My mom loves helping people. As with many older people whose active years were spent in the glorious role of homemaker - and why not! - my mom had lost much of her purpose in life, tho she always possessed her customary joie de vie.

She took loving care of Yvonne who blossomed at long last under mom's tender ministrations. They are dear friends to this day. I remember my mom being amazed by all the pills Yvonne took.

This is the way people with mental disorders are treated in Geel, Belgium. Ordinary families take in sick members of their community. After all, they are part of the community, your neighbors, not to be shunned or mocked or shunted off to looney bins on the edge of town. No, for some reason, the goodness of man prevailed in Geel - and still does! - and the mentally ill were not outlaws.

Read more about Geel here.

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