Global society is experiencing the biggest crisis Since the Second World War. The resulting stress and anxiety undermines the psychological well-being of individuals, families, and communities. People with psychosocial disability, and the staff who provide care, are particularly vulnerable. FGIP is actively engaged in providing that support. For more information click here
40 Years Global Initiative on Psychiatry
It is amazing, but today our foundation Global Initiative on Psychiatry exists 40 years. It is particularly amazing because we were originally planned to be a temporary “confederation”, a temporary link between the various national groups that were all opposing the political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union. It was December 20, 1980, and we met at the Hôpital St. Anne in Paris. Our goal was to get the Soviets out of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA). Which we indeed managed to accomplish, two years later, and in 1989 we also managed to have the WPA impose conditions on their return. At the World Congress of the WPA in Athens, Dr. Pyotr Morozov read a statement on behalf of the Soviet delegation, acknowledging that indeed the USSR had systematically abused psychiatry for political purposes.
And after that we were there, from the very start, when the USSR opened up, new psychiatric associations emerged in the now former Soviet republics and people came forward who wanted to reform psychiatry in their country.
But first there was that strange meeting in Paris. Not only was the background of all the participants totally different, there were also quite a few people who knew no foreign languages and thus everything had to be translated. The French hosts consisted of a number of psychiatrists, among whom was Cyrille Koupernik, an internationally respected child and adolescent psychiatrist. Koupernik had been born in Petrograd on the night of the February Revolution of 1917, and escaped to France with his parents a few years later. He was a well-known figure in France. He was a member of the Legion d’Honneur and had played a leading role in the protest movement against the war in Vietnam. The core of the French delegation was, a group of activists led by the somewhat overly excited, and as it turned out later, Trotskyite Martine LeGuay, and the Parisian psychiatrist Gérard Bles. Gérard had a strong posture, a flamboyant man with a strong sense of humor, and the appearance of a painter in the time of the Renaissance, which in a way wasn’t so strange because one of his ancestors had apparently been a painter at the Dutch royal court of Orange. Although a very pleasant character, he spoke only three words of English and so Martine had to translate every word for Gérard in addition to having her own contribution to the conversation, which did not really help to speed things along. Also the German delegation was rather mixed. The group was more or less led by the German psychiatrist Friedrich Weinberger, a somewhat strange fellow with eyes that continuously rolled in their sockets and who took a lot of effort to look important. Later it turned out that he had been the object of a successful Stasi infiltration, and that he was the “leak”, which we found out only after the DDR disappeared. Weinberger was accompanied by the very kind and gentle psychiatrist Helmut Bieber, almost the opposite of Weinberger, and by a German journalist with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Claus Einar Langen, a former prisoner of the Soviets. He only knew German, and so he also contributed to the Babylonic confusion.
The Swiss delegation was more mixed and of quite a high caliber. Among the participants were well-known professors of psychiatrists like Charles Durand and Hugo Solms from Geneva, as well as the energetic Catherine Kuhn, who already since 1974 led a Swiss association against the political abuse of psychiatry and was clearly the center of the group. Languages were no problem here, and the same counted for the British delegation led by Peter Reddaway, professor of Sovietology at the London School of Economics and a key figure in the Western support to dissidents in the USSR.
The meeting lasted for two full days, continuously lengthened because of the language barriers and because of the fact that the way of holding a meeting was different from country to country. Finally, after a two-day marathon, we had a deal. A temporary union would be formed in order to coordinate the international campaigns. Following a good Swiss example it would be a confederation and after a lot of deliberation the name “International Association on the Political Use of Psychiatry” was chosen. This had taken a lot of time, because the name should sound OK in all languages used, should have an acceptable acronym (IAPUP) and on top of that the participants disagreed for a long time about the prefix “on.” “Against” sounded too negative, “for” was wrong, “to combat” too militant. Finally the British managed to convince all to accept “on,” but until our first name change in 1989 to the “Geneva Initiative on Psychiatry” the issue would repeatedly lead to new debates during board meetings.
We subsequently went through multiple stages in our work, among other reflected by the name (from International Association on the Political Use of Psychiatry to Geneva Initiative on Psychiatry to Global Initiative on Psychiatry to Human Rights in Mental Heath – Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry, as it is called today), our structure and the countries in which we work. But we are still there, going strong, with member organizations in Bulgaria, Georgia, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Sri Lanka and, above all, with a very vibrant family of “Gippies” who are making a difference every day.
At this stage I would like to remember the very first group of reformers of Soviet psychiatry. I will never forget the meetings in the kitchen in Kyiv’s suburb of Obolon in the early 1990s, at the home of Semyon Gluzman. He was there, Gluzman himself, who served ten years of imprisonment because of his opposition to the political abuse of psychiatry. There was Yuri Nuller, a professor from St. Petersburg who survived nine years in the death camps in Kolyma because he had been arrested and accused of having been recruited as a French spy at the age of three. And there was Svetlana Polubinskaya, the lawyer working at the Institute of State and Law in Moscow who was at the cradle of most of the new mental health laws in the USSR. An amazing group, who are mostly forgotten but who one day will be honored for what they did, I am sure.
I have been with the organization from the very start, 40 years ago. Most of the founders have passed away, but their spirit is with us in every step we make and every project we start. GIP is something unusual, it connects people with similar believes, and it is an honor to be still able to serve the organization, that helps me stay young, and is for so many a “change maker” in their daily lives.
Mind the Gap South Africa
The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic vary from country to country, but it is safe to assume that they will be worse in countries where a stricter lock down was enforced, or where lock down measures were less consistent, affecting specific parts of the population e.g. the poor, or where consecutions are such that lockdown as such resulted in very unhealthy circumstances.
South Africa has been particularly hard hit, resulting in very unsafe situations in areas with a high-density population e.g. townships, increased racial tensions, violence and arbitrary measures by the police.
The Mind the Gap-SA Campaign has been rolled out in five languages in addition to English: Xhosa, Zulu, Shona, Southern Sotho and Afrikaans. All logo’s and banners are available in those languages, and can be found on the website: https://www.covidandmentalhealth.eu/mind-the-gap/south-africa/
SUPPORT OUR PROJECTS
FGIP has created a special crowdfunding page with two project in South Africa that we are raising funds for.
Care for a Cuppa
The Global Mental Health Peer Network (GMHPN), an international mental health lived experience organisation, based in South Africa and represented in 25 countries, plans to set up a “Virtual Coffee Shop” where individuals with lived experience with mental health conditions or anyone experiencing mental health problems as a result of COVID are able to join others for a casual and informal chat. The idea is that people have the opportunity to meet new people for a conversation unrelated to COVID – this gives a way to be distracted from the constant reminders of COVID and bring people out of social isolation while building new friendships.
SAFMH Food Relief - against Hunger
The SA Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) is the largest national mental health organisation in South Africa. As a national organisation we serve to empower mental health care users and mental health organisations nationwide, advocate for the human rights of mental health care users, develop and disseminate credible mental health information and create much needed awareness of mental health so as to reduce stigma and discrimination towards mental health care users.
Mental health service users and their families who are in dire need of humanitarian aid. They are caught in a poverty-disability trap and face hunger as an extreme result of unemployment or underemployment made considerably worse by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and extended lockdown.
Food parcels are delivered to the homes of our beneficiaries, sparing them the indignity of having to queue for food in public places, lessening the risk of contracting COVID-19, and offering them hope and a sense of community. Each food hamper is filled with nutritious food and costs R400.00 to feed a family of 6 individuals living is historically disadvantaged communities.
The food parcels bring real and immediate relief to hungry families, improving the nutrition and physical well-being of vulnerable children, youth, adults and elderly persons who benefit from our food parcels, and boosting their resilience and immunity to disease.
Both crowdfunding campaigns can be visited via this link:
You can make your donation online:
Vegetable garden for a Ukrainian social care home
Imagine a drab institution where seven hundred women spend their lives in complete idleness. Hardly any contact with family, hardly ever outside the institutional walls. The only daytime activity takes place in a small space where up to ten women can simultaneously do needlework or mend clothes behind the sewing machine. Their lives are a hopeless chain of empty days that run along the lines of a regime that applies to everyone. Everyone gets up at the same time, eats meals, goes to bed. Stripped of individuality.
This is not a bad dream, but the daily reality at the Svyatoshinsky social care home in Kyiv, Ukraine. Tens of thousands of men and women of all ages are often locked up for life in similar circumstances in one of the 145 institutions, social care homes, in the country. They are there because they have a psychiatric illness, an intellectual disability, or because they have nowhere else to go.
Our Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP foundation started working there a few years ago. Together with the initially suspicious director, who gradually became more and more open to change, we took the first steps towards the humanization and gradual de-institutionalization of as many of the women as possible. “Transition departments” have been set up, where women have more freedom of movement and are allowed to furnish their own shared room, and work is being done on a unit where women are prepared for their return to society. There will also be computers for communication with the outside world and computer lessons. Revolutionary developments by Ukrainian standards.
We now ask for your support for the next step: the development of a vegetable garden on the grounds of the institution, where women can grow their own vegetables or create a garden; a first step towards a kind of care farm. The director has visited similar locations in the Netherlands and has enthusiastically returned to his country. This is possible with him too! We now want to help him realize this.
We ask for your financial support for our project. Every amount helps us to give the women in the Svyatosjinsky social care home a more humane life.
Global Initiative on Psychiatry-Benelus
IBAN: NL08 INGB 0000 8080 80
o.v.v. Svyatoshinsky boarding school