Mental Illness: A Town for Outpatients

On the surface, Geel looks like any other country town in northern Belgium. Its cobbled marketplace is surrounded by 15th century homes and shops; its neat brick farmhouses look much the same as they did in Brueghel's day. What makes Geel different is the fact that 1,800 of its 30,000 inhabitants are mental patients — and that most of them are not confined to an asylum but cared for by normal families in the town. While this kind of outpatient care is still relatively new to psychiatry, the good people of Geel have been...

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