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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 59 (2017) 9, 537 - 545

Essay

Mental health as a front-line service for bewildered persons

C.L. Mulder, J. van Weeghel, A. Wierdsma, J. Zoeteman, A. Schene

background ‘Bewildered persons’ have often been in the news over the last few years. There has been much discussion about the meaning of the term ‘bewildered persons’, the number of people involved, the way the problem should be tackled and the role of the mental health services.
aim To look critically at the term ‘bewildered persons’ and to discuss the suspected increase in numbers and the role of mental health services.
method Review and discussion of the relevant literature relating to ‘bewildered persons’ which has been published in the last 25 years.
results The term ‘bewildered persons’ is a general label given by the Dutch police to several groups of people. Suicide rates are rising and more and more people are being compulsorily admitted to psychiatric clinics and hospitals. These factors indicate that increasing numbers of people may now be a danger to themselves and to their fellow-citizens. It is not clear whether the increase in numbers is real or simply reflects the extra attention given by the police. These people may in fact be a new group consisting of persons already known to the mental health services. A national team that aims to improve the care of ‘bewildered persons’ has made several recommendations to stop the increase: prevention and better cooperation between municipalities and mental health facilities. In our view the mental health services should operate at the front-line of the public mental health service, providing low-threshold diagnostics, assertive outreach and treatment for patients who have mental disorders but are unwilling to accept care or treatment. Such a service requires adequate finance, good cooperative agreements and removal of the bureaucratic and financial barriers that prevent patients from seeking care.
conclusion ‘Bewildered persons’ is an umbrella term used to denote people who urgently require care and are a public nuisance and who display disturbing behavior. ‘Bewildered persons’, who now form a part of the group of people targeted by the public health services, have been around for a long time but have been referred to by different names. They require the structured assistance of integrated care, access to social and medical services and timely diagnosis and treatment. People who have somehow slipped through the net of care facilities should not be left to fend for themselves.

keywords bewildered people, mental health care