Geel – A Radical Experiment in Mental Health Care

The Belgian town Geel has a remarkable tradition of families taking in individuals with (severe) psychiatric conditions. This foster-family-approach to psychiatric care has existed in Geel since the 13th century and is unique in the world. People with mental illnesses live in with one family and stay long, most of the times their whole adult lives, like 20, 30 years or even longer. The psychiatric issues vary from schizophrenia, to psychosis and any other mental illnesses.

For The New York Times I had the chance to document the lives of these boarders and their foster families in their daily lives, sharing meals, caring for each other, smoking sigarettes together, or playing games. This system does not really exist in this way anywhere else, and could be a solution to mental health care issues around the world.