“Users understand what’s going on, don’t treat them like it isn’t. Having a disorder doesn’t mean you aren’t smarter. We need to support those with mental health problems, not make them outcasts”. This was the powerful cry of a person taken care of by the mental health services of Trieste, during the flash mob that took place today at the Mental Health Center – CSM of Barcola, one of the four in the Julian capital, considered symbolic, the first opened by Frank Basaglia after the closure of the city asylum of San Giovanni. Promoters of the demonstration, the Mental Health Forum and the Public Health Committee, to denounce the situation of impoverishment that, according to them, the health and mental health services experience in the city and throughout the peninsula. The CSMs, in fact, are no longer seen by many as «strong, solid, truly close, flexible safeguards», as stated in the written document motivating the protest and would not be able to guarantee the complex and integrated responsibility needed to satisfy the need for user care.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the installation, on the stairs of the structure, of unsightly nets, mounted to prevent people – as happened to a woman in the month of May – from falling and hurting themselves. For the organizers of the flash mob, an alternative solution could be found, which would not bring back so clearly to mind the asylum structures that have been abandoned for the past fifty years in Trieste. However, it is only an epiphenomenon, a small fact which however provided the opportunity to denounce a situation considered by some to be slowly but constantly worsening. “Healthcare has been suffering attacks for many years now and these attacks are reflected above all in territorial health work,” he said. Kevin Nicolini, municipal councilor of the city for the Now Trieste civic list. «There will be a before and after with respect to these facts: what has been an operation carried out over 50 years with a capillarization of services, which has become an international model, risks disappearing We are not here against the operators, nor against the managers of the Mental Health Department – DSM, we are here to ask for answers that do not arrive at the institutional level».
The people who met outside the CSM gate overlooking the seafront were in for a surprise: they thought they’d see the main entrance closed, as it has been since the pandemic. Instead, surprisingly, they found the doors wide open and refreshments laid out in the garden. “I have four kilos of chains in the car, my intention was to tie myself to the gate,” he said Peppe dell’Acqua, one of the protagonists of the Basaglian revolution, former director of the Mental Health Department of the Trieste Health Authority (today the Giuliano-Isontina Health Authority – Asugi). «But magically this morning this gate opened and the chairs came back out. The closed doors, associated with the recently appeared iron grate, create an idea of this place that we have always tried to avoid. These places were born to overturn that image that we all have, from the old black and white photos of asylums; CSMs have an important ethical but also aesthetic dimension, they must be pleasant places to stay». The protest is in no way aimed at the operators, whose important work is not in doubt. «There has been a generational turnover of doctors, nurses and all staff», said Dell’Acqua, «which deserves a strong investment by the Healthcare Company, which means training, linking to a tradition, building a capacity not only technical, but also a human capacity for presence». What is denounced, however, is the lack of operators, which makes it difficult to carry out the work, in a situation of increasing vulnerability and mental distress on the part of the population. Also waiting for the demonstrators was the director of the CSM and the DSM, Pierfranco Trincas, welcomed, upon his appointment, by numerous protests, as he was considered “not Basagliano”. Around him, also some psychiatrists and operators of Barcola. “We are extremely saddened by the manner in which this protest has taken place,” said the director. We don’t want wars, we want peace. I owe Barcola a lot, because he recognized my role, my profession, my humanity. They acknowledged that I know Basaglia’s thought and this was a great gratification for me». The nets, explained Trincas, were the fastest intervention that could be implemented, even if the psychiatrist had asked for plexiglass considered less invasive. “They will be replaced,” he promised.