‘An unfolding nightmare’: Trieste’s pioneering mental health system under threat, say campaigners

A world renowned treatment for mental illness is under political threat, reports Mark S. Smith

Tuesday 22 June 2021 17:11 BST
The city of Trieste
The city of Trieste (AFP/Getty)

The Italian city that spawned one of the world’s most successful models for recovery from mental illness is facing growing pressure from the region’s hard-right government to dismantle its globally renowned system of community psychiatry.

Trieste, once the principal Adriatic seaport of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and its surrounding region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia tucked against the borders of Austria and Slovenia, has been a beacon of holistic psychiatry reform since the 1970s, when the late Franco Basaglia began closing the city’s mental asylum.

Basaglia’s work in Trieste ultimately led to the abolition of all asylums in Italy – called Law 180, promulgated in 1978, and still known affectionately today as Basaglia’s Law.

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