Giovanni Jervis: Critical Conscience of the Italian Psychiatric Reform


  • Luigi Onnis Sapienza – University of Rome


Italian psychiatric reform, Law 180; Institutional transformations, Mental illness conceptions , Public services, Mental health workers formation


Giovanni Jervis, was one of the protagonist of the Italian psychiatric reform and was greatly involved in all the phases of its development, but, with his typical intellectual rigours, he was also very critical not toward the law 180 which abolished the shame of psychiatric asylums, but rather toward the ways of leading and governing the global reform process. In this paper four aspects of Jervis critical evaluations are emphasised: a) the criticism toward a “totalitarian“ conception considering practices and everyday institutional management as the unique ways to research problem solutions; b) the criticism toward a renewal process exclusively focused inside the psychiatric hospital, which led Jervis to organise one of the most important outside experience in the Reggio Emilia territory; c) the criticism toward a sociological conception of mental illness, disregarding the subjective, psychological and relational aspects of the psychic suffering; d) the criticism toward the inadequacy of the mental health workers formation, which must become the basis of a real transformation of the “public services culture”.