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0202 – Points of View from Jerusalem

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Mental Health Update in Israel

“Something Very Exciting Happens in the Mental Health World in the Country […]

Lately, I have followed ‘Soteria House’, an alternative to psychiatric hospitalization, and I was terribly moved every time I read or heard something about the place. Two weeks ago I started working there, hoping that I might be able to find a niche I feel comfortable within the treatment world.
I can talk about tyranny and isolation and the appalling extreme cases that occur in psychiatric hospitals, but this is far from the only, or major, change that Soteria offers. The whole approach in psychiatric hospitalization is uprooted and replaced here. This is not a semantic difference, it is the dismantling and reassembling of the form that until recently was the only way to deal with a mental crisis in Israel. In Sotria they try to narrow the hierarchy between the team and the tenants and enable the residents to take an active part in their lives.
This is the basis for everything that happens there – people in crisis who are together, and in a shared life setting, try to think of any possible and creative way to alleviate the difficulty and pain of those in the midst of a mental crisis. All of them together, residents and staff (some of whom also face or faced mental difficulties), in a respectful, humane, sensitive and egalitarian manner. In Soteria, there is the most basic understanding that for some reason, in our world, is considered radical – even people at a time of deep crisis can, and must, take an active and central role in shaping their lives, especially managing their own crises. […]
I do not want to paint a utopian picture because there is always a way to be better, even in Soteria. For example, only recently, some of the HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) announced that they would begin to recognize Soteria and direct people and finances. Until now, the funding has been based in part on donations and mostly on the rent of the tenants, which costs a lot of money – this feels so wrong. The place is still new so there is a mess, it’s learning whilst making mistakes, and this also has its own price [..] But what is happening in Soteria and all that it brings to the world of mental health in Israel is revolutionary and radical at levels that I have not yet encountered in the social and political world of work. […]"

▶️ Source: Roni Slonim

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