The Project, a webportal dedicated to the welcoming of psychically fragile and lonely urban people.


In Geneva, a garden-workshop nestled in a small square along the railway, unconditionally welcomes a mixed population of psychically fragile or lonely urban people. Personalities of all ages and all origins meet at the Atelier Galiffe, finding a place to be with their existential difficulties. It offers manual activities or gardening, or participating in the cooking of a meal, or just stay there and nevertheless feel that they belong to a kind human group. At a time when progress in neurosciences and the arrival of robots promise unprecedented cultural, social and health upheavals, I wanted to keep track of some of these « non-compliant » people’s touching life paths, as well as the three social workers’ remarkable professional options.

Protagonists: people of Galiffe, ordinary heroes

A mixed audience of marginalized people meet at the Atelier Galiffe. They come out of their own free will, with no mandatory registration nor commitment to regular presence. Most of them have a fixed home and are generally known by the social services. Everyone chooses their activities, or does nothing, depending on the mood of the day. Personalities are original and often endearing. The place provides a containing framework to cross sometimes seriously incapacitating intimate turbulences.

Every afternoon, three professional animators welcome the users just as they are, providing a safe and caring environment without holding records nor setting therapeutic goals, but with the desire to support self-esteem and the consolidating social links. Half a dozen volunteers regularly join them proposing specific activities or walks. Twice a week, they also offer drawing and painting workshops in the morning.

Theme: psychic fragility at the time of the neoliberal economy

In Geneva as elsewhere in our western societies of the early twenty-first century, the deterioration of the economic situation causes an increase in mental suffering. The number of welfare recipients is exploding, coupled with increasing burnout among mental health workers. However, the psychiatric hospital no longer is a place to live: care stays are brief and focus is set on chemistry to get people on their feet again as soon as possible back in their context. The creation of the Atelier Galiffe – within the Geneva and Romand Switzerland Network for Health and Integration of People with Psychic Disorders – dates back to the 1980s, when the anti-psychiatric movement was looking for an alternative to what – at that time – was often experienced as confinement.

Happily, things have changed since then, influenced by various medical and associative actors. I intend to contextualize the existence of the Atelier Galiffe by interviewing both mental health professionals and politicians to try to capture how they see social integration and the evolution of the word « human » at a time when humanism shows signs of obsolescence. What are the prospects of public mental health when robots and artificial intelligence are getting ready to take control over human work ?

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