History of Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP
GIP started as a human rights organization with the goal to end the incarceration of dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. The information we received was often shocking, the treatment nothing less than torture and many of our “clients” stayed for many years under the most inhumane circumstances in psychiatric prisons. When the Berlin Wall came down at the end of the 1980s and all political prisoners were released, we discovered that the situation was much worse than we ever imagined. Hundreds of thousands of people remained locked up under inhumane conditions in psychiatric hospitals and ‘social care homes’, for the rest of their lives. Sometimes our project managers found dozens of people incarcerated in cellars without functioning sanitation, in some cases two persons sleeping in one bed; lice, dirty pajamas, no ventilation whatsoever… These are images we will never forget.
Initially we focused our work exclusively on Central & Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. We started with small projects, setting up psychiatric associations, associations of psychiatric nurses, family organizations and eventually also consumer organizations. We trained mental health professionals, established day care programs and gradually a new approach to mental health care provision was developed: an approach that focused on trying to keep people in the community as much as possible. Gradually the projects became bigger and together with our partners in the target countries we received support from local and national authorities that agreed to cover regular expenses (such as water, gas, electricity, salaries). As a result of ten or fifteen years of hard work the landscape of mental health in many of the countries was changed fundamentally.
Starting in 2005, GIP also focused on countries outside the region, in particular in Africa and South East Asia. In many of these countries the work is the same as what we did and continue to do in Central & Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. We help in integrating patients into society who were locked up in a psychiatric hospital for many years, and under very bad living conditions, or develop community mental health care services where no assistance has been available so far. In Africa we are particularly active in the field of HIV/AIDS, focusing on developing support programs for the millions of people who have been hit directly and indirectly by this epidemic and are often suffering from serious depressions and other mental health problems. We are also active in training nurses and establishing small-scale care programs, among others in the field of substance abuse.