Ingeborg Drewitz Prize 2004

On December 12, 2004, the “Villa Stöckle” runaway house received the Ingeborg Drewitz Prize of the Berlin regional association of the Humanist Union for its commitment to the self-determination of psychiatric patients.

Reasons for awarding the Ingeborg Drewitz Prize to the “Villa Stöckle” runaway house

Roland Otte, Chairman of the Berlin Regional Association of the Humanist Union

The Humanist Union honors today an anti-psychiatric oriented project. At first glance, this may seem contradictory. The Humanist Union sees itself in the tradition of the Enlightenment, relies on reason, argues for a more rational policy. But hasn’t the modern emphasis on rationality always had a downside? Didn’t the distinction between rational and irrational also lead to the devaluation, exclusion, even forced treatment of people who didn’t meet the demands of rationality clerics in scientific garb?

However, rationality cult is not the business of the Humanist Union. As a civil rights organization, our focus is on respect for human dignity. We therefore oppose any disproportionate or avoidable restriction on the free development of the personality. The Humanist Union has always kept a close eye on institutions in which self-determination is endangered or no longer possible. The Humanist Union has always dealt critically and constructively with the subject of psychiatry, first in 1979 with a congress on psychiatric reform.

Civil rights activists and psychiatry critics, Habermasians and Foucaultians meet in the insistence on self-determination. Theoretical debates alone are not enough to help people in mental crises. The “Villa Stöckle” runaway house, which we would like to honor today, offers concrete help.

The Weglaufhaus offers people in crisis situations a shelter that enables them to take their lives into their own hands again. It offers people refuge from homelessness and from psychiatric treatment, which they experience as patronizing. The Weglaufhaus does not simply advocate for self-determination in the abstract, but in concrete terms.

The Weglaufhaus demonstrates on a daily basis that an approach is possible that consciously refrains from dividing humanity into “sick people” on the one hand and “healthy people and experts” on the other. We are impressed by the openness with which the Weglaufhaus is breaking new ground, constantly questioning the old, trying out new things and also discussing them controversially within the team.

The successful work of the Weglaufhaus raises questions of social significance that should not be underestimated: Who can determine at what point of deviation from norms of rationality self-determination can be restricted? How are human rights still protected when even the capacity for self-determination is denied, when people’s declared will is ignored?

We have to ask ourselves these questions again and again in order to avoid exclusions and violations of human dignity. There are probably no patent solutions. This makes it all the more important to keep taking a close look at what is happening in psychiatry – especially under increasing cost pressure – and to look for alternatives. It is important to avoid treating people psychiatrically against their will because they are “different” and too much trouble for society.

Madness is part of humanity. Not only to err is human, but also to be insane. Above all, however, the question of who or what is or is made insane is a question of perspective, social circumstances and also time. Inhumane were and are often the consequences associated with diagnoses – especially when treatments are carried out against the declared will of those affected.

This year we are awarding the Ingeborg Drewitz Prize for the seventh time, and for the first time not to an individual person, but to an organization. Many people have been committed to the Weglaufhaus and in the Weglaufhaus, and many individuals would have deserved the prize. However, singling out one person would not have done justice to the special character of the Weglaufhaus. What distinguishes the Weglaufhaus is also its democratic way of working. The critical relationship of the house to authorities and hierarchies is reflected in its own structure. And this structure is not a rigid one; under the roof of the Weglaufhaus there is a lot of liveliness, debate, polyphony. This also impressed us, and we also want to honor this in today’s award ceremony.

One of those closely associated with the Weglaufhaus is Peter Lehmann. He was a founding member of the Weglaufhaus, is an author and publisher, and a board member of several associations critical of psychiatry. We are pleased that he will give the laudation today.

Laudation by Peter Lehmann

Congratulations from friends of the Weglaufhaus

Psychiatry Self-Help Saarland:
The LVPE Saar sincerely congratulates the Weglaufhaus Berlin on the awarding of the Ingeborg Drewitz Prize of the Humanist Union Berlin on December 12, 2004.

Landesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener Baden-Württemberg:
The board of the Landesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener Baden-Württemberg is happy for you and congratulates you warmly.
With kind regards
Uschi Zingler, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors

Rhineland-Palatinate Regional Association of People Experiencing Psychiatry:
We from the LVPE RLP want to congratulate you warmly – I think you deserve it!!! Congratulations also to the founders!
Franz-Josef Wagner, LVPE RLP, Trier

Mira, “MeTZelf”, Netherlands:
Many congratulations for winning this year’s Ingeborg-Drewitz-Prize! I am well deserved.
Mira, chairman

Harold A. Maio:
Congratulations from America! Harold

David Webb, Australia:
Hello Runaways,
I’ve just heard about the human rights award that you won. That is so wonderful. Congratulations from all of us here in Australia who hope that one day we might have a Runaway House, too.
Best wishes – David Webb (and Batty and all her friends)

Don Weitz, Toronto, Canada:
Dear Ludger Bruckmann and Weglaufhaus – Berlin Runaway-House, My sincere congratulations for winning this year’s Ingeborg-Drewitz Prize. I wish we had a runaway-house in Toronto and all other major cities in Canada, because this housing is desperately needed for thousands of homeless and inadequately-housed psychiatric survivors struggling to avoid or escape psychiatric incarceration (involuntary commitment), struggling to survive in rundown rooming houses and disease-ridden shelters, struggling to survive on the street. I wish I had visited your runaway-house when I was in Berlin briefly in May 1998. It’s wonderful to know that you have established a humane and empowering housing alternative to the psychoprisons. Perhaps this fact will help inspire other psychiatric survivors and social justice activists to start runaway houses in Canada. Thanks for standing up for psychiatric survivors and their human rights.
Best wishes,
Don Weitz, antipsychiatry activist

Mary Maddock:
Congratulations to everyone to do with the Runaway House. Hope we will all be inspired by your great example and that more and more of these fantastic houses will mushroom all over the world especially where psychiatrc drugs are so prevalent. May you keep up the good work for a long time to come and increase and multiply.
Yours in spirit,
Mary Maddock

Prof. Dr. Kostas Bairaktaris, Athens:
Congratulations on receiving the Ingeborg Drewitz Prize.
I wish you all continued strength and a Merry Christmas.

Andreas Kohlhage, Publisher, Cologne:
Dear Villa Stöckle team
,on the occasion of the awarding of the prize – but not because of the prize – a hearty congratulations.
We wish you luck for your work – the work is good anyway.
The Weglaufhaus will continue to need luck. Perhaps the prize can help Villa Stöckle to have it a little easier in the future, or to say: a little less difficult (?!).
Andreas Kohlhage

A psychiatric patient from Waiblingen, Baden-Württemberg:
Dear Villa Stöckle community,
very warm congratulations on your award for the special advocacy for human rights in Berlin with the award of the Ingeborg Drewitz Prize.
Many greetings from Baden-Württemberg

Beverly Mills, Sunderland, England:
Hi Everyone
I just heard from Peter Lehmann that you won the Ingeborg-Drewitz prize – I just wanted to say congratulations – I visited weglaufhaus when I was co-chair of ENUSP.
Best wishes
Bev Mills,
Deputy Director User Empowerment, Mental Health Matters, Avalon House St Catherines Court, Sunderland Enterprise Park

Greg White, Cork, Ireland:
Congratulations on your awardfrom
Cork Advocacy Network…
greg white

A “godmother” of the Weglaufhaus, Munich:
Dear Weglaufhaus team
,I congratulate you very much for the great award and I am happy for and with you about this recognition!!!
Your work is super and tremendously important – keep it up!!!!!!!!!!!
Many success and a lot of fun tomorrow at the celebration wishes
N. from Munich

Prof. Wolf-Dieter Narr, Berlin:
Dear people of the Weglaufhaus,
(…) I am not only happy about the award for the Weglaufhaus and its overall good work with all its problems. I am also pleased with the name of the prize winner. I knew Ingeborg Drewitz well and would have liked to honor her as well.
I use the opportunity to emphasize, for me of course, that I am still attached to the cause of the Weglaufhaus, which is above all about people in their individuality. If I can help in any way, please get in touch, get in touch.
I would like to meet with you once, if there is a meaningful opportunity. Perhaps around some problem discussion, in which I could participate gladly also possibly as a speaker.
Equally much. I regret to have missed the award ceremony, congratulate you belatedly on the award and remain in old connection with all good wishes and greetings
Wolf-Dieter Narr

A former “godmother” of the Weglaufhaus, Hannover:
Dear “Way Runners”,
I am very happy that my “colleagues” of the Berlin HU have awarded you the Ingeborg Drewitz Prize. I agree with that, even if I otherwise know nothing about the Berlin conditions and possible other – further? – worthy of the prize.
(…) This also means that I will not be able to resume the financial support I have provided for several years to this important – and still unique? – Project for several years. Because I now have considerable additional personal expenses: Medication, physiotherapy, cab instead of streetcar… with long since reduced retirement income. And therefore I have long since lost the right to receive ongoing information from you. But I was pleased to read that the work is continuing and that apparently some of the administrative staff members are now joining in. And so I have hope that my wishes for further existence and successful work have not been dashed.
Cordial greetings

A donor of the Weglaufhaus, Berlin:
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for the kind invitation to the award ceremony. I would have been very happy to come. But unfortunately it is not possible for me to get around in traffic after dark. (…)
But how I would have loved to come to your open day and get to know your wonderful project better.
I would be very grateful if I received an invitation to do so at a next open house, unfortunately I never got one! Special thanks for your project overview. On two pages it is very well summarized what everything is and will be. And one can only wish you from the bottom of one’s heart that everything will succeed and that the Senate will not pull its hand off you completely for lack of money. I think your temporary “guest residents” can feel very secure with you and better equipped to enter the hard normal life afterwards.
(…) Your project and your work and the fate of the people in your care are close to my heart.
All the best to you all and, of course, congratulations on the award of the Ingeborg Drewitz Prize.
With kind regards


The Governing Mayor of Berlin
Berlin, December 2004

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen

on the occasion of the award of the “Ingeborg Drewitz Prize” to the Weglaufhaus “Villa Stöckle”, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the staff of this important Berlin institution.

The Weglaufhaus is a worthy recipient of an award named after Ingeborg Drewitz. Just like the Berlin writer, who was committed to helping her fellow human beings with great enthusiasm throughout her life, the Weglaufhaus is also committed to helping people in need. For many years, homeless women and men who are in a profound psychological crisis have found protection and support in the “Villa Stöckle”. Here they can draw new strength, experience understanding and humanity and are encouraged to help themselves. Today, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all the employees of the “Villa Stöckle” runaway house for their responsible work.

At the same time, I would like to thank the Berlin regional association of the Humanist Union, which has been honoring individual Berlin citizens or projects for their special commitment to human dignity with the “Ingeborg Drewitz Prize” since 1987.

I wish you all a wonderful celebration today in honor of the “Villa Stöckle” runaway house and all its employees. For the future I wish this institution as well as the Berlin regional association of the Humanist Union all the best.

With kind regards

Klaus Wowereit

Dr. Heidi Knake-Werner, Senator for Health, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection of the State of Berlin

Greeting on the occasion of the ceremony for the awarding of the “Ingeborg Drewitz Prize” of the Berlin branch of the Humanist Union to the runaway house Villa Stöckle, Verein zum Schutz vor psychiatrischer Gewalt e.V. on 12.12.2004

“The best theory is of no use if it is not visible in deeds…” Ingeborg Drewitz once wrote. She did not leave it at these words, but visited and cared for people in need of help. No one was too lowly for her not to be sure of her sympathy.

When today the “Weglaufhaus” receives the “Ingeborg Drewitz Prize” of the Berlin regional association of the Humanist Union, then an institution is honored that acts in exactly this sense: In the “Weglaufhaus”, people are helped who find themselves in very difficult social and health-related life situations.

In this facility, the experiences of those affected as well as their psychological, social and creative resources are utilized. The focus here is on the self-determination of those affected and not on the motto: “We know what is good for them”. Here, the consciously self-chosen path of the individual is supported, even in critical phases of life, to reject psychiatric treatment and alternative ways of dealing with difficulties are sought.

This requires a high level of professional qualification, great empathy and infinite patience on the part of the staff. The people working here have often demonstrated this. In many cases, they have their own experience of crises and are therefore able to empathize with those seeking help and build trust.

The offer of the “Weglaufhaus” closes a gap, because it represents an alternative for people, who would remain completely without help because of their refusal against the “classical” offers of the psychiatry. Without help, they are often forced into psychiatric care by a court, which is something they never wanted, or they are given a court-appointed guardian who arranges treatment or admission over their guardian’s head.

In the “Weglaufhaus” there is the possibility to start a different, self-chosen path with support, understanding and encouragement. Not infrequently, a long-standing cycle of recurring crisis triggers could be broken in this way.

Even though after eight years of practical work many skeptics have already been convinced, there are still professional reservations about the approach of the “Weglaufhaus” from some areas of psychiatry. I do not share these reservations. And that’s why I’m glad about the – ultimately political – decision in 1996 that this offer was at least located in the area of assistance for the homeless.

I think: The “Weglaufhaus” has its justification! Because only if a certain variety of help approaches is offered, it is possible to reach people in difficult life situations or crises. Only help that people accept voluntarily, where people feel accepted in their wholeness and where their own competencies are recognized and supported, can lead to a long-term improvement of the individual life situation.

With its unconventional concept, coupled with professional work within existing laws and by meeting formal requirements, the “Weglaufhaus” enriches the Berlin offer landscape.

Therefore, I am very happy that the institution receives the “Ingeborg Drewitz Award” of the Berlin regional association of the Humanist Union on the “Human Rights Day” and congratulate it from the bottom of my heart. I wish the “Weglaufhaus” and its staff much success for the future.

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