For Centuries, A Small Town Has Embraced Strangers With Mental Illness

Lulu Miller reports for America’s National Public Radio (NPR):

“At the center of Geel, a charming Belgian town less than an hour’s drive from of Antwerp, is a church dedicated to Dymphna, a saint believed to have the power to cure mental disorders. It’s a medieval church with stone arches, spires and a half-built bell tower, and it has inspired an unusual centuries-old practice: For over 700 years, residents of Geel have been accepting people with mental disorders, often very severe mental disorders, into their homes and caring for them.

“At the program’s peak in 1930, about 4,000 boarders resided in Geel — a quarter of the town’s population.”

It isn’t meant to be a treatment or therapy. The people are not called patients, but guests or boarders. They go to Geel and join households to share a life with people who can watch over them. Today, there are about 250 boarders in Geel. One of them is a Flemish man named Luc Ennekans. He’s slim and has green eyes, and he’s 51 years old. NPR’s Lulu Miller went to Geel and met him and his host family there and reported this story for Invisibilia [the podcast directory of America’s National Public Radio] …”

Read more here.

For Centuries, A Small Town Has Embraced Strangers With Mental Illness
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