Forced psychiatric admission procedures in Brussels doubled since 2010
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    Forced psychiatric admission procedures in Brussels doubled since 2010

    Approximately 10% of the patients for who forced admission procedures have been started, are held under observation. Credit: © Belga

    The number of forced admission procedures that have been started in the police zone Brussels Capital-Ixelles has more than doubled since 2010.

    When someone poses an ‘acute and serious danger’ to themselves or the people around them, the police can start a procedure for a forced admission to a psychiatric hospital, the so-called Nixon-procedure. The procedure can only be started when someone has a mental illness and has refused voluntary help, and after the police have contacted the municipality.

    The number of started Nixon-procedures has more than doubled since 2010, when 329 procedures were started. In 2018, 687 procedures were started, which is an increase of 109%.

    The psychiatrist on call then decides whether these people will be effectively committed. “Approximately 10% of the patients for who Nixon procedures have been started, are held under observation,” said the police spokesperson, Ilse Van de Keere, to Bruzz. How to proceed after the observation is decided on a case-by-case basis.

    The remaining 90% is not placed under observation, and will therefore not be committed to a psychiatric ward as involuntary commitment is such a drastic event that it is only permitted in the most extreme cases.

    These people would often benefit from professional help, “but we regularly find that they do not want to accept help on a voluntary basis,” said Van de Keere. “There is not much we can do about that as a police force,” she added.

    Some of these people are responsible for a large part of the nuisance on the central avenues and at the Bourse in the centre of Brussels, said Michel Goovaerts, the chief of police of the police zone Brussels-Capital-Ixelles, to Bruzz. However, the nuisance is often not ‘severe’ enough for the public prosecutor’s office to respond to. “They often slip through the cracks,” he added.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times