“At one point it became such a sanctuary for the mentally afflicted that it was said that ‘half of Geel is crazy and all of Geel is half crazy'”
This article has been written by Gabrielle Carey for The Guardian. It begins:
“Just imagine a place where foster families take people with a serious mental illness into their homes instead of putting them in hospital. Just imagine that in these foster homes those individuals become functioning members of the family, and that very few of them ever return to a psychiatric institution. And just imagine this system has been operating successfully for more than 600 years. There are many lessons to be learned from the oldest community psychiatric service in the world.
For generations a small city in Belgium has been practising a radical system of community mental health care. It all started with a shocking story of sexual assault from the sixth century. When the pagan Irish king Damon was widowed, losing his beautiful Christian wife, his grief was so overwhelming that it tipped over into madness. The only person who resembled his lost beloved was his daughter Dymphna and in his delusion he pursued her as a replacement. Dymphna escaped her father’s incestuous desires, fleeing across the channel, to the town of Geel in Belgium. There, having had experience caring for her demented father, she began caring for the locally mentally unwell. Damon, however, tracked her down and, possibly while in a psychotic state, killed her. …”
You can read more from here.