Tuesday, October 6, 2009

SAINT DYMPHNA AND THE LIGHTS OF GHEEL



St. Dymphna seeking refuge from the storm.


This poignant painting of the seventh century Irish maiden, Saint Dymphna, reminds me of all of us Gay and Lesbian persons who are struggling in these dark times to keep the light of faith alive in an unjust church. The lights of Gheel are just behind us, a safe haven, a place where we can find help and protection. We just have to see it, to cross the distance without giving up hope. 

(paraphrased from the artist's website)

St. Dymphna, who was beheaded by her father for refusing his sexual advances, is the patron saint of the mentally ill and incest victims, though by rights she should also be the patron of all victims of sexual abuse. Today, the village of Gheel in Belgium is entirely dedicated to the care of the mentally ill.


Colleen Kochivar-Baker has offered this clarification:

Gheel is actually outside Antwerp in Belgium and has been a haven for the mentally ill for over 1000 years. At times 1/4 of the population of this city of twenty thousand will be mentally ill, and they come-frequently alone and on foot-from all over Europe.

The therapeutic protocals they have developed are studied by mental health professionals from all over the world. What makes Gheel successful is that the entire community is accepting and in many cases makes their living from the humane treatment of the mentally ill. It is a unique and virtually unrepeatable therapeutic paradigm. I've often wished I've had the resources to send clients to Gheel rather than a stateside psychiatrist.

Gheel Belgium is a truly miraculous and incredible, if virtually unknown story. Thanks for bringing some more attention to this really incredible story.

3 comments:

colkoch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
colkoch said...

Sorry, I had to delete the first comment for a factual error concerning time frame.

Gheel is actually outside Antwerp in Belgium and has been a haven for the mentally ill for over 1000 years. At times 1/4 of the population of this city of twenty thousand will be mentally ill, and they come-frequently alone and on foot-from all over Europe.

The therapeutic protocals they have developed are studied by mental health professionals from all over the world. What makes Gheel successful is that the entire community is accepting and in many cases makes their living from the humane treatment of the mentally ill. It is a unique and virtually unrepeatable therapeutic paradigm. I've often wished I've had the resources to send clients to Gheel rather than a stateside psychiatrist.

Gheel Belgium is a truly miraculous and incredible, if virtually unknown story. Thanks for bringing some more attention to this really incredible story.

Jayden Cameron said...

Thanks for the clarification, really interesting. I've incorporated it into the post proper!