Mental healthcare is more important than ever before, with more people coming forward to talk about their struggles with their own mental health. This is also prevalent in the expat community, who move to another country (usually unaccompanied by family) and they are forced to settle into a completely foreign world.

It’s not all plain sailing, so it’s important to know that you don’t have to go through it alone. Here’s all you need to know about mental healthcare in the Netherlands.

If you or someone you know has suffered from a breakdown or needs help, then contact a GP as soon as possible, especially if you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts and/or is self-harming. You will then be referred to a crisis intervention team. In the case of an emergency, the following phone numbers are available:

Suicide prevention Netherlands: 0900 – 0113

Samaritans: 0602 222 88

Where can I get help for mental health problems in the Netherlands?

If you are suffering from mental health problems, there are a few options that you can try when you want help. Before we begin, it’s important that you first take out Dutch healthcare insurance, as this is compulsory in the Netherlands. Or else you’re looking at an expensive bill at the end. Once you’ve done this, you must register with a GP (doctor), this way you can easily make appointments to be seen.


Visiting your GP for mental healthcare in the Netherlands

You can go to your GP, which is always recommended, as they will refer you to a mental health specialist. Especially if you have a complex mental health condition. If your symptoms are mild, they can usually be treated just by the GP.

Online mental healthcare in the Netherlands

If you don’t want to do that, then you can find support online or from an online mental health specialist. This is especially recommended if you find it hard to go outside or find social situations very difficult. It also means that you can remain anonymous if you are not ready to take that step yet.

Workplace mental healthcare in the Netherlands

Some workplaces have a company doctor or welfare a support that you can visit if you want to see a professional about a health issue.

All in all, there is someone to help and we strongly recommend that you see or talk to at least someone if you are struggling with mental health problems.

Will my basic healthcare insurance cover mental healthcare?

Now you’ve read that, you’re probably worried about actually securing help via your insurance. In answer to this question, in short, yes. But you must read up on it, as only some insurers will cover you for certain things.

For example, if you have a more complex mental health condition, which may need a lot of interventions, then your insurer may not cover for ALL of your primary or secondary care. Some will and some won’t, so make sure to read up on your policy before undergoing any treatment. If not, you can pay for additional mental healthcare, alongside your basic healthcare insurance.

When you are first referred, you will have a meeting to discuss your treatment. In general, your total cost of treatment is estimated, which is measured when records are kept of your treatments. They will never know for sure until you are better, which is impossible to measure. This is why you cannot pay per session and a bill is calculated totally at the end. You won’t have to worry about this if your insurance covers it.

If your mental health is severe and you are admitted to a mental health institution, then under the Chronic Care Act, your insurance will cover the first 3 years of your being hospitalised. After that, it is under your discretion.

New to the Netherlands and know nothing about healthcare and health insurance in the Netherlands? We have a guide for this!

mental health in the netherlands

The difference between primary and secondary mental health care in the Netherlands


If your mental illness is seen as more complex than what the GP (or other doctor) is trained for, then you will be referred to a primary mental healthcare service. Primary mental healthcare is for people who have mild to moderate issues with mental health, yet is too complex to be treated without intervention still.

Primary mental healthcare consists of services such as online mental health support and counselling services. Sometimes you can have both, depending on the severity.


If your mental illness is seen as more complex than what the GP (or other doctor) is trained for, yet is more complex for primary care, then you will be referred to a secondary mental healthcare service. This service is for very complex disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia to name but a few. The care will be different and may involve hospital stays.

What happens if you are admitted to a mental health institution in the Netherlands?

If you have a complex and very serious mental illness, you may be admitted to a mental health institution. In serious incidents, where you are a danger to yourself or others around you, you will be admitted without consent. In usual circumstances though, it is usually voluntary and there is a meeting with everyone to discuss if this is the right cause of action.

A long-term plan is sometimes to provide supported accommodation, in order to ensure that the patient is independent, yet in a safe environment.

What is mental health support like for young people in the Netherlands?

You may have a child or friend who is under the age of 18 and you are wondering what systems are in place for them in the Netherlands. The system of getting help is generally the same as what it is with an adult. They should first go to their GP and get referred for additional help.

mental healthcare in the netherlands
Source: Wiki/National Cancer Institute

Are there any issues with mental healthcare in the Netherlands?

Overall there shouldn’t be too many issues if you are living in the Netherlands when it comes to getting help. The only general thing you may come across is a language barrier if you are not fluent in Dutch. However people’s English skills in the Netherlands are excellent, so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue hopefully.

The Netherlands has quite a mixed reputation when it comes to mental healthcare. Some say it is known for its amazing healthcare, others say it is seriously lacking in these areas. If it’s anything like the “take some paracetamol and you’ll be fine” scenario like most of us are used to when we got to the GP for other illnesses, then it certainly is lagging behind. I can’t speak for those people though. We did have an anonymous writer who wrote this article about how the system has failed in the past though.

Look after yourselves and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

What are your experiences with mental healthcare in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments!

If you, or someone you know is in a crisis, there is help available. Call Suicide prevention Netherlands on 0900 – 0113 or Samaritans on 0602 222 88.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 26 October 2018, but was updated for your reading pleasure on 7 February 2020. 

Feature image: Flickr/Vic


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