Chris Van Es

Geestelijke gezondheid voor iedereen

MELBOURNE – Op een lenteavond in 1997, toen ik als onderzoeker op het gebied van de geestelijke gezondheid werkzaam was bij de Australian National University in Canberra, besprak ik met mijn vrouw, Betty Kitchener, een verpleegster die in haar vrije tijd EHBO-cursussen voor het Rode Kruis gaf, de ontoereikendheid van de conventionele EHBO-trainingen. Dergelijke cursussen besteden doorgaans geen aandacht aan noodgevallen in de sfeer van de geestelijke gezondheid, waardoor de deelnemers niet goed zijn uitgerust om mensen te helpen die worstelen met zelfmoordgedachten, paniekaanvallen, post-traumatische stress, de gevolgen van alcohol- of drugmisbruik of een verminderde grip op de werkelijkheid.

Betty wist uit eigen ervaring wat de mogelijke gevolgen van dit gebrek aan kennis waren. Toen ze vijftien was, leed ze enige tijd aan ernstige depressies, die culmineerden in een zelfmoordpoging. Maar haar familieleden en docenten op school slaagden er niet in het probleem te onderkennen, zodat ze geen steun of professionele hulp kreeg. Dit uitblijven van een vroege behandeling heeft haar herstel ondermijnd, waardoor ze haar hele leven last heeft gehouden van depressie-aanvallen.

Om ervoor te zorgen dat niet méér mensen in eenzaamheid hoefden te lijden zoals Betty had gedaan, besloten we in onze lokale gemeenschap een eerstehulpcursus geestelijke gezondheidszorg op te zetten. Drie jaar later, toen Betty minder was gaan werken om deze cursus verder te ontwikkelen, konden we die eindelijk van start laten gaan.

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