The Netherlands is generous to its citizens and inhabitants with a welfare system I myself have benefited from. I ask that you not misinterpret this as ingratitude nor dismiss me as yet another expat bitching about the healthcare system when I say this: in my experience, psychiatric care in The Netherlands is to a great extent unavailable and when available often counterproductive. This country can and should do better.

*This article was sent by an anonymous reader.

My personal story with an mental illness in the Netherlands

I was diagnosed with mental illness when I was 16 (I’m twice that age now). I have learned that this is a chronic disease that you need to learn to deal with and throughout the years and with professional support I have managed to acquire essential coping mechanisms. I have, in particular, learned to determine when it is critical that I ask for professional help and this has already saved my life a few times. I know this might sound trivial but when you have a mental illness it is usually very hard to ask for help: you may wonder whether you’re just being weak, or if your peers or family will perceive you as crazy or a crybaby. Unfortunately the system here reinforces those fears as it makes it hard to ask for help, the patient must be very persistent and sometimes endure contact with unprepared and/or not at all compassionate personnel.

I have a job in Amsterdam. The company doctor determined a month ago that due to the acute state of my depression I was unable to work and should go home and concentrate on my recovery, yet I am failing to find the professional help I need. I am fortunate to be followed by a very caring psychiatrist who saw me struggle at the beginning of the year and recommend additional psychological help. Getting an appointment took 9 months, despite several calls and recurrent intervention of my also very caring GP.

In the meantime due to my mental illness, I had ups and downs. Once I had an acute episode of anxiety and tried to get a hold of my psychiatrist, since he wasn’t at the office I talked to his psychiatric assistant. In order to do such job it is not required to have a medical degree and the person I was in contact with proved to have not even Wikipedia-level knowledge of my disease. Well meaning as they may be, this lack of knowledge is dangerous! I called this person when my symptoms were starting and they told me they would talk to a psychiatrist at the practice to see what could be done. Throughout the afternoon my symptoms worsened (as expected) and then the assistant called me to say that the other doctor had decided not to interfere with my doctor’s treatment and that I should try to breathe into a bag to calm down. Luckily my GP was able to see me almost immediately and prescribed a sedative on the spot.

I was finally very fortunate to find a psychologist who is caring but my symptoms have worsened, she determined I now need daily care instead of weekly appointments. Turns out day hospital spots are scarce and I might be able to get one only in a few months… it seems not even doctors are themselves able to navigate the healthcare system in order to get appropriate urgent care for their patients! Bottom line: the professional help I need now is not available for months and the medical support I do have has been paused for holidays.

Why write about it now?

I’m writing this because I think the availability and quality of psychiatric care in The Netherlands needs discussing. I wish mine were simply a terrible isolated example but I am sorry to say I have heard about other cases and witnessed yet another. I once took a friend in deep anguish to an emergency service where they were told by the doctor that they would love to help but their hands were tied, my friend would have to see a psychiatrist. You see, we’d tried that before, but the psychiatrist we found had told my friend they were simply overwhelmed and should “try harder”‘ (this friend had been diagnosed in another country with a mental illness for which they were taking medication). Months before arriving at the emergency room we had tried to get an appointment with a psychologist but this was over the summer, the doctors who weren’t on holiday discussed intakes during an hour on Fridays only and they were swamped. Maybe 2018 will be the lucky year they call back with an appointment?
My question is then, try WHAT harder? I guess you’re left with helpful advice.


This article was sent by an anonymous reader.


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Healthcare in the Netherlands: Is it really that good?

Top 5 Ways Dutch and US Healthcare Are Different

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  1. I totally agree. I moved here from the United States and am *shocked* by the lack of support for mental health here. Having people in the middle of mental health crises jump through hoops, just to find roadblock after roadblock, is unconscionable. They definitely need to discuss this publicly. I have struggled with clinical depression for years and was treated in the United States with medication, but when I got here a little over a year ago, and had a severe depressive episode 6 months ago, I got no help, and have gotten no substantive help to date. I went to the huisarts, who basically told me to get more sunshine and take walks (for my crippling depression that caused me to miss several days of work.) He refused to refer me to a psychiatrist or prescribe medication. I went back and he did refer me to a therapist, but she was terrible and had no understanding of clinical depression, and she and I agreed we were a terrible match. I got a 250 euro bill for that visit (to be fully paid by me for my deductible.) Since then, I have searched to no avail for a good psychotherapist who takes insurance. I am in another depressive crisis, and called the huisarts again, who has no appointments until next week. It has been 6 months with no meds and no therapy, and nobody sees any urgency in helping me. I am turned away, find minimal insurance/institutional support for mental healthcare, and attitudes are surprisingly ignorant for medical professionals. It’s like they don’t believe that mental illness really exists, and that it is just a bad attitude. Shocking, and unfortunate. I don’t know what to do. I’m in a deep pit, and this country is not the place to be to pull me out of it.

  2. I like to raise awareness about Mental Health and care in different countries.

    I’m Bipolar ..or I have Bipolar(manic depression) do not know how to classify it. It began years ago, not much as a up and downs and some very difficult depression periods ..As I lived in the Netherlands , where is the top health care in Europe I was confused about :very easy: way they treated Mental health. 2 years in a row I was visiting doctors and specialist, even the head of Haarlem psychiatry had me as a patient ..He looked at me with confidence and told me ..Just take those pills and you will be fit and ready to work in no time.. Little I knew , that pills began to killing me ..I slept 16 hours a day..i wasn’t able to socialize I was so dizzy and full of anxiety. I got no diagnosis just a little symptoms of depression , that Alexander stated that will go away .. I should be more active. Easy to say when tasks as shower, cooking and cleaning was so hard it became a trigger, not to mention going to the supermarket – it took me 2 days to get ready for going outside and do grocery for a week, as I didn’t wanted to leave my house.
    I moved , I run away..i was medicated for a non existing disease ..I was a drug tester for the dutch government …they even let me pay it, cause insurance you pay didn’t covered it fully ..So on top of the 112euro insurance another 80eur a month was such a fun 
    In 2015 I find specialist in Slovakia , that diagnosed me after 3 sittings and put me on the right medication. Been stable since and finally I’m able to be myself again and have the knowledge what is on with me . It was a long run and it will be , as this kind of disease are not curable ..I got my life sentence … Now again back in Amsterdam, I will not look up for help here..i have my Doc for 3 years and will take the risk and fly every 3 months for check and medication back to Slovakia as after that experience, I have no trust at all..
    I’m writing it for you as a awareness, please get help if you struggle, don’t mind to admit , anxiety, stress or depression …Mental disease is as any other, it’s invisible and that make it even more tricky Every 3rd person you know is having depression ..Sometimes people don’t get it, and also I very dislike people taking it as advantage ..No its not an excuse to be an asshole..

  3. I’ve been trying HARDER for a year and I’m exhausted. The GGZ is under enormous pressure, waiting lists easily extend into six months, and I keep being referred on.

    There was a suicide recently at a local company that imports a great number of expat workers. I keep wondering how hard they should have tried for their life to be saved. I keep thinking about the fact that they probably did try. How many people suffering from depression must feel a compounded sense of hopelessness in the face of the system here? It’s not something commonly discussed, but it should be.

    I’ll be going overseas for treatment and then coming back. It shouldn’t be necessary, it will be expensive, but I cannot emotionally afford another year spent trying to find someone willing to work with me.

  4. I’m well past exhausted with the dutch medical system as a whole. I have serious mental health needs ever since I was randomly stabbed almost to death in the street watching fireworks on NYE. That was over a year ago. I am shocked, appalled, disgusted…so many other how I’ve been treated..from the GP to the psychiatrists and all in-between. Absolutely useless people with no lateral thinking skills and absolutely no empathy. In fact that is one thing that affects the dutch as a whole – no empathy. It’s so very strange to live in a country full of people who lack empathy. During several periods when I became suicidal due to chronic PTSD, I told the GP, Victim’s help, my psychologist and my psychiatrist that I wanted to die. What do you think they did? Nothing. I’m still paying for a random gangster-try-hard did to me but rest assured he’s being looked after in prison – getting all the help he needs whether he likes it or not. Me? Stuck in limbo. Victim’s Help, the GPs, the so-called professionals are devoid of sense. It’s all procedure, no thinking out of the box and no tailoring treatment for specific needs. They hear your problem, pick a procedure for you and that’s it – you’re screwed because it’s a one-size fits all and you won’t even get close to getting what you need. My short-term memory is badly damaged. What do you think happens when I miss appointments simply because I can’t remember them? I get a bill, because I didn’t give 24 hours notice. After several times Victim’s Help finally decides they should try to call the GP for me to discuss it. All the GP/receptionists say is it’s not their policy to do anything about that – if you miss an appointment you have to pay. I live directly across the street – it literally would take them 30 seconds to call to let me know it’s about time to come. That’s even if you can get an appointment in less than 3 days time – you’re screwed if it’s urgent. Oh and then you’re in trouble for getting Victim’s Help to speak for you on top of that because it ‘makes them feel backed in to a corner’. This country is hellish and I am desperately trying to leave before it kills me. What a backwards hell-hole.

  5. I’m glad atleast I’m not alone in this situation. I already accepted that the health care system is bad but it’s manageable. That is until I started suffering with mental health. I had to wait 3 months for my first appointment that lasted 1 hour and one more month for the second one that lasted less than 30 minutes. My therapist told me she is not an actual psychologist but a gp for psychologist whatever that means. She is one of the most useless “doctors” I’ve ever encountered. I find it more useful to talk with a friend in a pub. Her level of advice is if I tell her that I’m over thinking cannot sleep, she would tell me to stop overthinking and try sleeping. When talking about suicide she almost does it with a smile on her face like it’s a casual talk about the weather. Don’t rely on these doctors here if you can find help online or get treated abroad.


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