In the Netherlands, a low-stimulus “psycholance” cares for urgent mental health patients

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.

Read more | Take care: five ways to cope with the mental impact of lockdown in the Netherlands

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.

What do you think of this approach to mental healthcare in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below? 

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.

Samantha Dixon 🇦🇺
Sam isn’t great at being Dutch. Originally hailing from Australia, she came to study in the Netherlands without knowing where the country was on a map. She once accidentally ordered the entire ice-cream menu at Smullers. She still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike. But, she remains fascinated by the tiny land of tall people.

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