the Mental Health Forum and the third revolution to come…

By Francesca de Carolis

Mental Health Forum. What is that?

“It’s nothing more than a square. A square where people who, for different reasons and in different ways, visit mental health sites meet, recognize each other, talk to each other”.

The answer in the words of Peppe dell’Acquapsychiatrist, former head of the psychiatric services of Trieste, who worked so hard alongside Basaglia, and that this place “opened” in 2003 with people convinced of the need to repair the fracture that over the years suppressed the practices in the field of mental health of what was said and even practiced in the wake of the revolution led by Basaglia…

Read also >>> Let’s not cancel the Basaglia revolution

Why are we talking about this ? Because if this dissociation, this groove, despite the commitment of many, unfortunately continues to deepen more and more, the Forum wants to be reborn today, and is reborn around a kind of “call to arms”, to think, and why not ? revolution …

Much needed if, looking around… how not to see the destruction in the facts and the ferocious denial of the thought and the path started with Basaglia…

Starting with what has been denounced for some time in Trieste, which was also the heart of this revolution, where “everything happened”, where today, as Dell’Acqua denounces…

“Many ‘distance and danger’ psychiatrists, whom we have kept out of our region with untold effort, now seem welcome and attractive to our trustees.”

Mental health, psychiatry, let’s face it, we talk about it very little, and maybe only when we read about violent practices and deaths, for example … You will remember Elena, who died in August 2019 in the fire of the psychiatric ward of the Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital from Bergamo, while she was in a restraint bed. Maybe you just heard about it of the death of Wissem, the young Tunisian who died after five days tied up in two Roman hospitals. Stories that are quickly forgotten, however, archived as “accidents that happen”.

But, apart from those who deal with it, who speaks more than all the people who, on so many different levels, live the experience of mental disorder? Mostly invisible.

If on the one hand the practice of coercion was never abandoned, indeed, in the words of Dell’Acqua, “the ‘binders’ come out into the open and claim the dignity of their horrific practices with kind words” although it is now accepted that restraint is never a therapeutic act (and if you just look for a moment at the awesome reality of most diagnostic and treatment services, amidst squalor, squalor, abandonment and bars)…on the other hand they might disappear, where they were born, services capable of truly welcoming and following people who experience the insistence of mental disorders in their lives, who are often people suffering from this marginalization that the disease produces … And therefore the open centers 24 hours a day, for example, and all those joints in the region that “they catch the disease in life and not in a hospital bed” (words of Franco Rotelli), and that they build “the city that heals”.

In short, exactly the opposite of the large dimension, which unfortunately concerns all of health and weakens it in many respects, with the blessing of such a dominant mercantilist spirit. A dimension in which above all mentally ill people are pushed back into invisibilityin the chilling silence of psychiatric drug treatments.

Against so many bad practices, the “call to arms” is for a revolution that reclaims and reinvigorates a cultural choice, which also means giving back to those who have lost their voice, welcoming back to live with all others, and means a scope of choice and care of people, personalized projects, small-scale engagement… which “should represent the powerful alternative to the bureaucratic and desubjectivating modalities that dominate (bad) practice in almost all mental health services”.

Listening to the words, interventions, testimonies, voices of reality, coming from all over the peninsula, of the first meetings of this Forum which wants to be reborn, in the end, despite everything, the desire and the commitment to find “a loving, subjective, utopian and somewhat dreamy dimension that has been lost”, this is what made the strength of the basaglia revolution and of the whole movement that had coalesced around it.

Meanwhile, and we hope, the third revolution to come. With one imagine in the head, once again, Marco Cavallothe enormous papier-mâché horse born in the fantastic laboratory of the psychiatric hospital in Trieste which, on the last Sunday of February 1973, crossed the streets of the city accompanied by the procession of guests of the psychiatric hospital, since then a symbol of the fight against all asylums.

The Forum is also a site, with a title of the first impact perhaps a little unsettling: The Earth is blue. The reference is to the words of the first astronaut, Yuri Gagarin, who on seeing it, with wonder, exclaimed: “I see it, the Earth is blue!”. It was April 12 sixty-one years ago, and April 12, instituted by Unesco last December, is today the International Day of Human Space Flight. And this year, in the humid light of this month of April, the adventure of this virtual square also takes off again, which wants to echo the thought and the commitment of the other square, with the wish and the vision of an Earth that in the blue color of tranquility, of global harmony, it is truly welcoming to all. An Earth as blue as an orange (and that seems like another story, but, if you read it, you’ll see it’s there too).

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