Enriched by Experience


Of the dozen Dutch provinces, for some reason the southeastern one is most active regarding issues of empowerment for people in the mental health system. There we have the most critical psychiatrists and the most consumer-run projects. Is this a coincidence, or does self-criticism among powerful people foster self-reliability in less powerful people?

This video shows four projects set up by the Mental Health Services Consumer Platform.

1 Time-Out Hotel
2 Shop
3 AA Help-line
4 Manic-Depression Home Groep


Time-Out Hotel

Women who have been psychiatrized following violence or abuse provide a retreat for other women with similar experiences. It’s not really a hotel, but a caravan in a pleasantly green environment. The guests can stay up to two weeks, never alone, but accompanied by one of the women who run the retreat.

Excerpt from interview: “In the psychiatric institution it wasn’t possible to talk about what happened. There was no one who understood or had the time to listen. Any expression of emotion was immediately suppressed with more drugs. Here I was able talk freely about what happened to me with someone who has experienced the same and knows what it was like for me.


Clients of the mental health service run a carpentry workshop where they make wooden toys and gifts articles. The products are sold on the free market in the adjacent store, also run by the clients. The workshop and store provide experience enabling many people to graduate to paid employment. In addition, the project provides training in a variety of related skills including carpentry, salesmanship, and bookkeeping.


AA Help-line

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous are on hand 24 hours a day to answer calls from people plagued by their drinking.

Excerpt from interview: I’m not able to deal with alcohol. When I no longer drank for the pleasure of it, but because I had to, I had become an alcoholic. There’s something in my head that makes me want to keep going on drinking once I’ve started. I don’t tell anybody else that he’s an alcoholic. That’s something each person must decide for himself.


Manic-Depression Home Groep

People who have been diagnosed as manic-depressives meet once a month. Each time the meeting is in one of the members’ homes by rotation. Here people can talk to other people with experiences and feelings similar to their own. They discuss their medications, and the way their problems affect their work, family, and leisure such as vacations.

Excerpt from interview: In my teens I started having problems. I was in psychiatry for thirty years before finally receiving the diagnosis of manic-depression.

The narrator stated that manic-depression is a serious mental illness that can fortunately be controlled well with drugs. This bit of pharmaceutical propaganda was not in keeping with the rest of the video. The general message was empowerment and self-reliance for clients of the mental health system. I hope that someday people with similar problems can skip over the mental health system and go directly to empowering peer support.

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