Confusion reigns around term "disturbed person" in Netherlands: report

Mental health problems
Mental health problems. (Photo: psyberartist / Wikimedia Commons)

Emergency services in the Netherlands seem to be confused about the term "disturbed person", which results in confusion about the extent of the problem in the country. Due to a change in the police's recording system, the term turned into a collection name for anything that strays from normal, the Volkskrant reports based on conversations with mental health researcher Bauke Koekkoek, GGZ Nederland, the police and the team for people with disturbed behavior.

In 2011 the government asked the police to start recording "incidents involving people with disturbed behavior" separately. This category now includes incidents involving elderly people with dementia, drug addicts, people who lost it because of an ending relationship and people with mental disabilities. Only about 30 percent of incidents recorded under that category involves people with an actual mental disorder, according to the newspaper. 

For some time the Dutch police have been sounding the alarm over a worrying increase in the number of disturbed people causing problems in the country. In 2015 the police recorded 66 thousand incidents under the "disturbed" category. But given the confusion around what exactly "disturbed behavior" means, the problem may not be as large at it seems.

"There's a hype in a sense", Jacobine Geel, president of GGZ Nederland, said to the newspaper. "Because people with very different problems and vulnerabilities are added to the same group with the idea that a single solution should be sought. But the hype does offer us a chance to get together with all relevant parties to address the problems together."

Koekkoek, who wrote a book about this topic, thinks that the impression that there is an alarming increase in disturbed people, can also be attributed to society now being "cleaner, safer, more precise and probably less tolerant of deviant behavior", he said to the newspaper. "In the 80's and 90's there were, for example, many more addicts on the streets of the big cities. Then people were probably less likely to call the police if they saw someone ranting on the street. now those people would fall into the disturbed category."

Koekkoek's book is titled Verward in Nederland and it releases today.