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From the Board of Directors

Rutger Engels, chair of the Trimbos Institute Board of Directors
"For a number of reasons, 2016 was an exceptional year for the Trimbos Institute. I’d like to reflect on several of the high points and low points."

Trimbos Institute in 2016

In 2016 the Trimbos Institute observed its 20th anniversary. We celebrated that in early November with a well attended open house for staff members, their families and neighbourhood residents. It was gratifying to look back on 20 years of Trimbos history and to realise just how innovative we are and how we’ve set our gaze on the future.

Though the celebrations were a high point, I can’t avoid mentioning a very low point: the passing of an extraordinary colleague, Franz Trautmann. It was unexpected and deeply painful. Franz’s eminence, both within the Trimbos Institute and far beyond it, became clear in the tremendous turnout at the farewell ceremony, the hundreds of condolence messages from around the world and the beautiful tributes that appeared in NRC Handelsblad and De Volkskrant. I was also impressed, and still am, by the speed and determination with which Franz’s team, led by Margriet van Laar, have carried on his work, thus securing his legacy. It shows our institute’s resilience as well as the immense passion, engagement and sense of duty that people at Trimbos have for their work.

Still in conjunction with that 20th anniversary, we’ll be organising a whole series of networking meetings in various Amsterdam venues for our professional contacts and our alumni on the themes of dementia, nightlife drugs, psychiatric recovery and digital game playing.

Marie-Christine Allaer, who joined our Board of Directors in November, has further professionalised our operational management. Careful monitoring and accountability help to ensure productive cooperation, both internally within the organisation and with external partners. That is increasingly bearing fruit. The year 2016 was one more year of growth for the institute. Noteworthy results have been achieved both in the ongoing projects and in the acquisition of new ones. Splendid work by all our colleagues.

2016: projects and more

In 2016 we saw considerable interest in our products and expertise coming from the media, from professionals in practice and from a variety of stakeholders in the Netherlands and worldwide. Some focal points were a conference on digital game playing, our publications and research studies, our reports on community living for psychiatric patients, the new dementia glasses, statistics on alcohol misuse and employment and, sadly, the inevitable drug-related emergencies.

We made important contributions to the government-backed Coping with Depression campaign, launched on 26 September, in part via our swiftly updated mental vitality portal and our symptom-focused mini-interventions, which are important tools for mental health promotion.

News about alcohol and work

Attention to depression

Another exceptional contribution was our innovative project for depression and suicide prevention in secondary schools in the Helmond region. Great to be able to get that moving! Internationally speaking, we also focused on depression, with efforts including an important study by Filip Smit in The Lancet on the tremendous yields that can be achieved by investing in depression and anxiety prevention worldwide.

New initiatives

I’m proud that our institute is at the forefront when it comes to innovations in mental health care. And by innovations I don’t just mean technological initiatives like the dementia glasses, the BoostMe app and other new apps and games. I also mean new initiatives like the recovery and empowerment programme that Wilma Boevink has worked on with great inspiration and energy. Her doctoral defence was in April 2017, based on 20 years of research in the psychiatric recovery movement.

Outlook for 2017

I see a host of opportunities and challenges for the year 2017. Our guiding principle in all our activities remains knowledge sharing, cooperation, creating impact and broadening the reach of interventions. We’ll also be seeking new funding sources to help us invest in the implementation and refinement of products and interventions.

The basis of our work is formed by the longitudinal studies we’ve been conducting for some 20 years to monitor trends in mental illness and substance use. In November 2016, the fourth wave of the mental health population survey NEMESIS-2 got underway; the school survey HBSC and our monitoring study of deinstitutionalisation and community living will be repeated this coming year; and the findings of the current round of the dementia living arrangements study are awaited.

We plan to improve support for the ever-growing elderly population and for informal carers by providing e-health applications and improving education about dementia. Our elder services team also collaborates for this purpose with partners abroad, including an organisation in San Francisco. For the wider adult population, we develop a range of e-health interventions for use in primary care provision, in medical care and by employers. The team of our Centre of Innovation takes the lead in such efforts. We are also currently developing a digital tool for moderate- and low-level marijuana users who want to stop or cut back. We believe there is a demand for such an intervention, now that cannabis is being legalised in more and more countries. We have the knowledge and expertise to develop such a tool.


"The ambitions we set for ourselves demand a good deal from us, including a readiness to change, to contemplate and to work on ourselves. This will be a year in which we continue the work we are good at, as well as embarking on new initiatives, creative and enterprising ones. I look forward to the coming year. You’ll be hearing from us."


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