Behind the walls of Beverin Clinic

Behind the walls of Beverin Clinic - Tradition

The trees whiz past as we travel. They block the view of Beverin Clinic in Cazis a little on the approach by train which makes the clinic buildings all the more mysterious. And yet they stand proud in a small wood in the middle of Domleschg, where help has been given to people with psychiatric disorders since 1919. 

The grotesque faces in the carving workshop are reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s "The Scream". The patient had originally intended to carve a clock surrounded with happy faces. But he was not in the mood. The wood workshop is just one of many places in Beverin Clinic at which the patients can give expression to their moods. Other therapeutic activities include painting, cooking and sports. Beverin Clinic – and with it the Psychiatric Services of the Swiss canton of Graubünden to which the clinic belongs – uses a holistic approach to medicine and its patients. That includes methods of complementary medicine, for example traditional Chinese medicine as well as homeopathic treatments.
When the clinic was founded, totally different methods of treatment were being used for mental patients. In 1919, the clinic was the second of its kind to be opened in Graubünden – the Waldhaus Chur Clinic opened in 1892 was no longer able to cover all the canton’s needs. The two clinics were competitors until 2002. Since then, however, they have joined forces as the PDGR (the Psychiatric Services of the Swiss canton of Graubünden) and are regulated under public law. In both clinics, doctors treat all psychiatric complaints, such as anxiety and panic disorders, burnout/nervous breakdowns, depression, schizophrenia and addictions.

Space for more than 100 patients
"On average, patients are with us for around 25 days," says Markus Pieren, Head of Marketing and Communication at PDGR. Many patients can be released after just 15 days of treatment and come to the clinic as outpatients. Inpatients at the clinic include those cared for in the areas of geriatric psychiatry, acute psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, tinnitus and addiction. Mothers who have a psychic disorder and want to have their children with them during therapy can also be inpatients here. The mothers and their children live in one of the two new patient buildings that were constructed between 1997 and 2004 when Beverin Clinic was redeveloped. This means there is now sufficient space for 125 patients today. Some of the historic buildings were torn down, others completely overhauled. One of them now houses the Mentalva private clinic resort & spa.

Alongside the garden of the Mentalva private clinic is part of the wall that once surrounded the entire compound. In former times, the patients were social lepers; clinics for the mentally ill were deliberately built outside towns and communities. The valley floor Beverin Clinic stands on today was long thought of as being irreclaimable. When the River Rhine was straightened, a number of small streams were created with which the schistous rock washed down from Piz Beverin could be diverted into the valley floor, thus strengthening it. In spite of this newly acquired land in the community, the clinic remained taboo for a long time in Cazis. But things are very different now. Today, the clinic is an important employer; a crazy golf course and a wooded playground attract just as many visitors to the site as the public nursery does. In fact children play a significant role in integrating the clinic into public life: "They are a lot more positive about people with a psychological problem," says Markus Pieren. In addition a Christmas market is held here every year amongst the old buildings. It is attended by visitors from the entire valley. Any concerns? None at all.

Friendships over time
Methods of treatment too have changed considerably over the last 25 to 30 years. Today, the patients stay in rooms designed for one or two people with their own bathrooms; the wards have mixed ages and mixed genders and sometimes even mixed disorders. "Sometimes alcoholics and drug addicts can help each other over the course of time. Then friendships develop between totally different social groups, culturally speaking, that you would otherwise never have thought possible," says Markus Pieren. In the 19 years in which he has worked at the clinic, he has also experienced a change in society in terms of the acceptance of psychological disorders: "You tend to have consulting sessions quicker nowadays. But we still have a long way to go." Apart from a lack of understanding from employers, family and friends, Pieren also cites another reason why many people are still reserved and unsure: "You can’t show off your psyche like you can a break." The Psychiatric Services of the Swiss canton of Graubünden (PDGR) try to combat this attitude with, among other things, a range of services for outpatients. Doctors throughout the entire canton of Graubünden work for PDGR. "It’s always preferable to work on an outpatient basis as opposed to an inpatient one," says Markus Pieren.

Even though there is still distance in some areas: the atmosphere on the clinic premises is open and sincere. At the centre of the clinic grounds, in the Restaurant La Plazza, situated on a striking square made of schistous rock, there is a smell of cake; patients and visitors, employees and guests sit round chatting together. In the foyer of the Salvorta ward, there are pedal cars and scooters, the sound of children laughing resounds through the corridors. Several women meet up and go off to a therapeutic painting course together. Everything totally normal in Beverin Clinic. Mysterious is different.

Beverin Clinic looks forward to visitors
For example on the 18-hole crazy golf course, in the restaurant or at the Christmas market. Travel on RhB to Rhäzüns, then take the bus, or to Rodels, and then walk ten minutes.