Barion Pixel TASZ | “The programme is you” – An account from a mental health service user

"The programme is you" – An account from a mental health service user

The person interviewed in the film has dual diagnosis, which means history both in substance abuse and psychosis. He talks about his experiences with forced hospitalization, which not helped him in recovery, but on the contrary, they contributed to the worsening of his condition.


The interview was filmed in Gent, Belgium in Villa Voortman. Although Villa Voortman is a service that belongs to a Gent-based psychiatric centre, it is not a traditional mental health service. Visitors don’t get antipsychotics or any other drugs, there’s no mandatory therapy or constant medical supervision. Villa Voortman is a community meeting place for people with dual diagnosis. Most of the visitors are homeless people living in and near Gent who are (ex)users of psychiatry.

It is not medical professionals, but the visitors themselves who design, discuss and decide about the agenda and the daily programme of the house. There are team meetings, clubs, film, music and other art projects such as theatre or sculpting, and each part of these projects are planned and carried out by visitors of Villa Voortman. The ‘house rules’ are also a matter of mutual agreement of the visitors. (The only rule that obliges everyone is the ban of substance use in the house.) By not submitting visitors to strict medical supervision of a medical environment, mandatory daily routine and compulsory treatment, the principles of Villa Voortman retain the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: visitors are responsible for themselves and are able to make decisions along their own preferences and discussion with others. Hence, Villa Voortman is not even a service per se, but more like a meeting place where people can gather, discuss and do things with others.
Villa Voortman is an old house that enjoys cultural heritage protection. Besides the two professionals who work in the house (psychologist and social worker), there are interns and volunteers coming from the local community and the University of Gent, who take part in almost all activities of the house. There is warm meal every day. The number of visitors has been rising since the opening of Villa Voortman, reaching more than 100 by the end of 2012 – some visitors come few times per week, other come occasionally.
The creation of Villa Voortman was part of the mental health reform of Belgium that is known as ‘Article 107’ that aims to reduce long-term beds in psychiatric institutions by 10%, and to develop community-based services like Villa Voortman.
Gábor Petri and Tamás Verdes
The poem in the film in Dutch and in English
Het kindje
Het is zo mooi zoals het huilt en beeft al op zijn troon
Het kon kiezen tussen twee, en de derde ziet het niet
‘t Is te zeggen, het stond te denken in het hoekje vol grijze,
wijze mannen zonder haar uit heel dat denkershoekje daar
Je probeert zo goed of kwaad , en als het niet ging, een rode draad
Maar dat mocht weer niet zijn, het was als een grote fles azijn
Ja, kom maar mee en doe dat maar, kruip maar in mijn tas
Ik zal je leren zwemmen, ik zal je leiden, ik zal je temmen
Het staat te draaien en te keren tussen speldekussenmuren
En te wachten met te trachten dat het zo zacht niet meer kon zijn
Het zou beter leren hoe te zwijgen, hoe te zwijgen uit zichzelf
Zal het krijgen wat het weet en het nooit meer vergeten
Maar patience is zo moeilijk, het is de troef die soms ontbreekt
En het spelletje met Lucifer, dat al je goed verteert
The Child
Isn’t it beautiful as it weeps and shivers on its throne
Trying to choose between two, while not seeing a third
It just stood there, thinking in its corner, surrounded
By old, grey, wisemen of the bald philosophical kind
It would try for good or ill, holding on to Ariadne’s thread
But it wasn’t meant to be, and turned out a vat of vinegar
So, come with me, do as you please, you’re safe in my bag
I’ll teach you how to swim, I’ll guide you, I’ll tame you
It was twisting and turning between pincushioned walls
While delaying the attempt to lose the ability to be soft
It had better learned to keep silent of its own accord
So it shall get what it knows and never forget it again
But patience is so difficult to play when there’s no trump
And playing a game with Lucifer, will consume all you have
(translated by Sam Verlinden)
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