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The history of public mental health in 20th century Amsterdam

Project leader

Gemma Blok (Open University /University of Amsterdam until August 2017)

External partner(s)

GGD Amsterdam

What are the opportunities for valorisation in this project?

My research addresses a topic that is still very relevant today: how do urban societies handle citizens who display an explosive mixture of mental problems, addiction, and troublesome behavior? It shows how the public mental health activities of the GGD were always played out at the interface between care and upholding law and order. The result of their work was a mutual adjustment: the clients were both supported and disciplined; and at the same time society as a whole was stimulated by public mental health workers to develop more tolerance for deviant behavior. As such the research in this project offers a relevant historical background to current debates and urban problems.

Why is this project relevant for the external partner(s)?

The project and the resulting book are framed as a farewell gift to the former leader of the public mental health department of the GGD, and as a corporate gift at the same time. Furthermore, while fundamental changes are now going on in the funding and organization of mental health care in the Netherlands, the GGD may benefit from historical argumentation of its vital role and longstanding expertise in the Amsterdam field of public mental health.

How did the collaboration come about?

Through my professional network: a psychiatrist I know through a former project is working at the GGD. She brought me into contact with the commissioners.

What are the intended results?

A symposium and a book publication, entitled: Achter de voordeur. Sociale psychiatrie vanuit de GGD Amsterdam in de twintigste eeuw. (‘Behind the front door. Social psychiatry by the Amsterdam Municipal Health Service in the 20th century’). The book will be published by Amsterdam University Press in December 2014.

Boek GGD Amsterdam
Image by Roel Visser