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The change of the attendance to the mental health patient

Barbacena has kept all the memory of these stories in the Madness Museum opened in 1996.

The Barbacena example is a well-known story compared to the mental institutions of the Middle Ages (such as the Bethlem Royal Hospital of London – the oldest psychiatric hospital – dated of 1247 - which was famous for its brutal forms of treating patients). It is also known for the radical change of attendance when the Brazilian Psychiatric Reform started.

At the end of the 70s, when the inhuman treatments of psychiatric institutions were brought to light and reinforced during the 80s and 90s mentioning the Barbacena hospitals, these facts caught the attention of the entire society. The revolution in the mental health care comes from the belief that psychiatric patients can and should be treated without being isolated from their familiar and social surroundings, in institutions where they are locked and kept without freedom.

This challenge has been well accepted in Barbacena and psychiatric hospitals have undergone several changes done by the Ministry of Health. Many institutions have been closed down by SUS. The so-called Therapeutic Residences have been organized to receive institutionalized patients and the Psychosocial Care Centers offer them the necessary assistance.

Barbacena, in a sense, can be considered a model of the Brazilian Psychiatric Reform. The city has today 24 therapeutic residences with more than 150 tenants, all of them institutionalized patients that during an entire lifetime – 30, 40 and even 60 years - suffered ill-treatments and social exclusion.