The Netherlands has been pioneering an innovative approach to help people who are in need of acute mental health support. A so-called “psycholance” collects patients quietly when they urgently need help.
Mental health patients are often transported by police or ambulance, an experience that can be overly stimulating. With the use of a psycholance, patients can feel more at ease.
“When neighbors or loved ones are concerned about a person with mental health problems, 112 [the Dutch emergency number] is often called,” regional nurse Jeannet Scholten said in an interview with RTL Nieuws.
Less stigma, less stress
“We don’t want to transport people like this in a police car or ambulance. That can sometimes have an escalating effect,” Scholten explains. “A psycholance is low in stimulus, for example, it has a soothing poster and no bells and whistles.”
A police car or ambulance implies “that person is dangerous,” while a psycholance more says “that person needs help,” she continues.
Police or ambulance staff often need to respond to mental health calls. “For the police these people are not the priority, and neither are they for a normal ambulance,” says Scholten. In comparison, a psycholance is staffed by mental health professionals, specifically trained to help people experiencing a mental health problem.
A growing program
Henk van Dijk, of the National Police and leader of the program “Personen met verward gedrag” (Persons with confused behaviour) is pleased with the program. He says the responsibility to care for urgent mental health patients often falls to the police, but the police aren’t social workers. His priority is better care for the people suffering. “That’s what we do it for.”
The program was first piloted in Amsterdam in 2014. Since then, the Dutch cities of Eindhoven, Rotterdam, and Groningen and the regions of Drenthe and Friesland have also created psycholances for their communities.
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Feature Image: UMCG Ambulancezorg/Supplied
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in October 2020 and was fully updated in April 2021 for your reading pleasure.