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The "no man's land of the metropolitan area of Athens: research data and future challenges

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Stelios Stylianidis


The "no man's land" of the metropolitan area of Athens:
Research data and future challenges
Stelios Stylianidis(i, ii), Meni Koutsossimou(ii), Athina Vakalopoulou(ii)
i) Department of Psychology, Panteion University, Athens
ii) Association for Regional Development and Mental Health (EPAPSY)

It is well known that the immigration movement was intensified by the end of the "cold war". It was articulated through the process of globalization and led to a profound restructuring of the social geography of the metropolitan areas. "The world has become a city" stated historian Lewis Mumford in 1961. In fact, his prophecy has been realized, in the sense that the entire world is transformed into a huge constellation of big urban areas, which are marked by the displacement of the "South" within the "North" (Castells, 1989): social inequalities and exclusion, stigmatization of poverty, increasing complexity of social suffering. The city offers adaptability to survive, to hide and to communicate. But it has no premises or gives no permission for spatial continuity (Saraceno, 2010). Marc Auge (1992), one of the most known French anthropologists, uses the term "non-lieu", in contrast to Classical Anthropology, and refers to anonymous places without history, similar to every part of the world, overcrowded by different people that do not know each other and never come into contact. This definition probably reflects the social reality of the metropolitan areas of Europe.
This trend became dominant in the first decade of the new millennium and for the metropolises of global impact, this movement has been called "super diversity" (Vertovek, 2007). "Super diversity" is referred to the growing fragmentation and
We would like to express our appreciation for the contribution of Dr E. Bagourdi (Clinical Psychologist) to the translation of this article into English.
expansion of little immigrant communities, with very important differences between them concerning the employment, the validation of the individual civil rights, their acceptance from the local society and their international links. This phenomenon of social fragmentation and marginalization is widespread not only in the metropolises of the north, but also in the big cities of the European south, despite the fact that they have been shaped within completely different conditions compared to those of north American and European metropolises. The growing diversity does not mean that the economical and social inequalities have vanished.
The first paradox of this recent urban phenomenon lies upon the production of deep inequalities and a growing social exclusion of new population groups, through the interaction of cultural and economical factors, reproducing conflicts and fragmentation in a wider social spectrum.
A second paradox is that the majority of mass media and the key-people influencing the public opinion are transforming this phenomenon in images and discourses of highly stigmatized ghettos and are provoking the activation of ultra-conservative, even neo-fascist political attitudes, and the resurgence if violent practices of the indigenous local population against different ethnic minorities.
In this setting, dominated by a social atmosphere of prejudice and insecurity, relationships between indigenous and immigrants of the metropolitan area can be described in terms of an interminable and irresolvable conflict, which perpetually reproduces fear, stigma and marginalization of poverty. 1
Aside of the suffering of significant populations, the existing barriers and obstructions towards the legal ways of migration in the political and social reality of Greece, represent a hindrance to the researcher's ability to describe with precision the magnitude of the phenomenon at hand and to fully comprehend the impact of immigrants in this country. Greece, a country known for its emigration movements, has by now been transformed into a "reception area" for immigrants.
1 The recent argument of the British Prime Minister Mr. James Cameron about the failure of the multi-cultural model in Europe is used as a defensive and phobic reaction against social diversity, and also as an argument for the reproduction of fear and social exclusion by a number of political and social "Europhobic" actors in the field.

The problem of immigration is extremely complex and has a plethora of consequences on many levels:
Economical, in the sense that despite the fact that immigrants became precious human resources for the growth of the Greek economy in the recent past, and their contribution has been underestimated, if not entirely overlooked. They have become the object of exploitation, as they become involved with precarious jobs and the "black market" economy.
Social, in the sense that the mechanisms of social inclusion and assimilation of immigrants in the Greek society are strongly challenged, particularly where social inequalities and basic civil rights are concerned.
Cultural, in the sense that the post-modern Greek identity, fragile and insecure as it is, is developing reactions of "pathologisation" of the other, demonstrating a lack of tolerance towards diversity and immigrants.
Political, in the sense that the implementation of contradictory, fragmented and oppressive policies, which combine the massive expulsions with massive precarious "legalizations" of visas, are coming to an enormous impasse.
Official sources from the Aliens Division of the Greek police force confirm the vast differentiation amongst the countries of origin of immigrants in Greece, especially in the metropolitan area of Athens (Institute of National Migration Policy, 2008). It seems that immigrants from countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Iraqi and Turkish Kurdistan, Palestine, Soudan and Somalia are coming from regions where wars, persecutions and oppression are producing conditions of involuntary abandonment of their country. The majority of these people, who arrive in Greece through illegal venues, are attempting to reach different European destinations. An important percentage of these displaced populations live in Athens.
They are labeled as having a "non-legal status", which in turn becomes a permanent imprint for them. This "non-legal status" is associated with the Greek word "lathrometanastes", which means "clandestine immigrants"; it pertains to a status in between the non-legal stay and a very brief transitional period of intermediary "visa", before the final rejection of the request for political asylum in Greece.
The majority of immigrants in Greece are Albanians (Ventura, 2006). It appears that a significant preponderance of this population has been well established and socially integrated all over Greece since 1999. Thus, the Albanian population no longer represents a minority living around the marginalized zones and quarters of the metropolitan center of Athens.
The historical paradox in Greece appears to be that two or three generations ago Greek immigrants in the U.S., between the 20's and 30's, where labeled as "dirty Greeks" and "potential dangerous people" for the American public health system (Bagourdi, 2007). This historical reality seems to be denied or repressed by the majority of the modern Greek society, which is struggling against its own identity, its very economical, social and cultural crisis.

Comments on the description of the Metropolitan area of Athens
Athens presents a wide spectrum of spatial distribution of the various class and ethnic minorities. The center of the city, Omonoia square, is literally "occupied" by various ethnic groups, in an extremely precarious situation.
The popular quarter of Aghios Panteleimonas represents an extreme "case study", which allows us to understand in depth the complexity of conflicts amongst the indigenous population, the Albanian minority (46.4% of the inhabitants), which is already socially inserted in the metropolis, and the non-legal homeless immigrants from Afghanistan and Kurdistan, as well as the ultra-right political and racist discourse and violent actions against the "Muslim foreigners" and "invaders" of the city (Arapoglou, 2006).
According to the Mayor of Athens, Kaminis, "as legal and illegal immigrants enter the country, over 300 of them gather in the centre of Athens every day" (1° Forum Scientifico Internazionale Souq, Sofferenza urbana, diritti e buongoverno, Milano, 23-24-25 maggio 2011). He also states that the constant load of illegal immigrants leads to an increase in the number of victims of the general social crisis. As a result, a new category of homeless people emerges, the "new-homeless": educated people, possibly with a family, who have lost their jobs or are unable to find one. It is also notable that 40% of the population in Athens under the age of 25 is unemployed.
In Greece, there have been fragmented efforts to describe the phenomena of poverty and social exclusion without effective coordination among stakeholders, based on empirical data in general. In any case, all efforts are useful and legitimate, since they aim to highlight and enrich Social Science, proposing solutions to the applied reality.-
2. Method
The purpose of the study "Social Exclusion and Mental Health in the Metropolitan area of Athens" is to record and investigate the main characteristics of the Social Exclusion phenomena in Athens. It is specifically designed to review good practices and strategies within a network of European cities, against urban suffering and is part of a larger intervention plan aiming at the restructure of social services in the centre of Athens in collaboration with its Municipality.

The research goals are:
1) The description of socio-demographic, physical and mental characteristics of the vulnerable population groups
2) The investigation of the correlation between the aforementioned characteristics, and mental disorders and illness.
3) The assessment of basic needs and the development of a proposal providing guidelines to address these needs in the community.
In the present study we hypothesize that (a) there is a huge lack of strategic planning and co-ordination amongst the organizations that provide care to the disadvantaged groups, and an intense need for the resurgence of new resources and the development of new networks and (b) that the immigrants' profile is characterized by problems such as: physical illness, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, medical and family problems, and communication difficulties.

2.1 Research group
This study was conducted by 11 undergraduate students from the Faculty of Psychology of Panteion University of Athens, as part of their graduating thesis, in collaboration with the Scientific Association for Regional Development and Mental Health (EPAPSY). All students signed a consent form for their voluntary participation. The study lasted 6 months (October 2010 - March 2011).

2.2 Research phases

Phase A
During the first phase (October 2010 - December 2011), the researchers interviewed the Scientific Directors of the organizations that provide social services to the disadvantaged groups in Athens, in an attempt to accurately portray their structure and their daily activities. Additionally, the researchers tried to investigate networking options to more effectively confront the phenomenon of social exclusion. It is notable that most of the Directors, despite their workload, responded willingly to our request. The organizations that participated in this phase were: NGOs (Klimaka, Medecins Du Monde, Kivotos, Praksis, Day Centre Vavel), the Centre for Asylum Seekers, the Immigrants' services of Athens and Piraeus Prefecture, the National Centre of Social Solidarity, and the Addiction treatment centre.
For the purposes of this phase, we constructed a questionnaire-interview addressing the following core categories: organigram and daily work (services), population served (age, sex, needs, admission criteria), collaboration with other health and mental health services, daily difficulties working with this population (legal issues, communication), organizational culture and suggestions for more effective functioning.

Phase B
The second phase of the study (January 2011 - March 2011) included interviews from the sample (n=355). All students participated in a training focused on interview techniques for marginalized people that live in the centre of Athens. Special emphasis was given on techniques for creating a climate of interest and trust between the researchers and the interviewed, taking into consideration the vast diversity of this population. Then, students were divided in groups of two and conducted the interviews (in certain areas of the city where the homeless reside, such as Omonoia, Agios Panteleimonas, Exarhia etc), providing the feedback from each day to the rest of the research team. Most of the researchers characterized their participation in this study as "a life lesson".
Many case studies utilizing a multitude of social exclusion indicators have suggested that the focus of the measures used should be on specific types of proxy indicators. These indicators provided us with a helpful framework for designing the measurement instruments for this study:

1. Personal memories: utilizing the question ‘how did you come here?' we intended to elicit from the participants the basic reasons for which they came to Greece, and that ultimately led them to poverty and degradation.
2. Socio-demographic profile: sex, age, nationality, country of origin, educational level, family, employment (occasional / stable)
3. Stigma and self - stigmatization: We asked from the participants to characterize themselves, and to describe in a few words the way people treat them and how they feel about it.
4. Living conditions and health status: we included questions concerning the way in which homeless people cover their basic needs (food, housing, security); also questions about morbidity (physical / mental illnesses, hospitalizations, medication), general health (GHQ-12: hyperactivity, weakness, lack of self-esteem, sense of misery and unhappiness), drug and alcohol abuse.
5. Social Bonds: we assessed participants' relationships with their embassy and people of the same ethnic minority, legal history (potential arrests in the past and related reasons), whether they exercise their civil rights, and have access to health and mental health services.
6. Self-referral: we examined the life stories of the participants by asking them to describe their memories and express their most meaningful desires for the future.

2.3 The sample
Discovering and approaching vulnerable and socially marginalized people is not a simple task because of their diversity and the lack of adequate statistical data. The target groups of this study were pre-selected and represent the groups that the European Union has defined as ‘vulnerable social groups': unemployed, ‘new-homeless', poor, addicted, immigrants, refugees, offenders, released from prison, HIV positives. In total, 355 people were involved in this study, 18-60 years of age, from countries such as Greece, Albania, Pakistan, Romania, India, Iraq, Syria, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Egypt.

3. Results

3.1 Phase A
Analysis of the data collected from the aforementioned organizations in Athens provided the following categories as indicative of the main services that they provide: a) diagnosis, treatment, psychosocial rehabilitation (for the entire community), b) housing, feeding, education and safety (priority is given to children, single-parent families and the elderly), c) counselling on legal issues, d) intervention hot-lines (for suicide) and e) administrative services for residence and work permits.
It appears that there's a lack of coordination and fragmentation of responses to the perceived needs amongst the aforementioned organizations, which in turn results in an inefficient, overloaded system of services. As many Scientific Directors stated "Bureaucracy delays our work significantly and the government is likely to react only if and when our protest is massive". With regards to individuals requesting services, and specifically the ratio of Greeks to immigrants, there has been an increase in the requests for support from Greeks, as the multilevel social crisis led most of the enterprises to bankruptcy and failure. On the contrary, although immigrants appear more informed on the current services and their rights, they desire to abandon Greece stating "there is no future here". Moreover, the lack of sufficient recording of the immigrants' needs, the poor implementation of immigration policies, and the insufficient resources and staff further contribute to the problem of social exclusion and intensify the state's disruption: "the state does not support us sufficiently and ought to adopt a more social welfare approach", "everyone is very good in theory; we see them in the mass media, but no one has ever offered any substantial assistance". Last but not least, it is important to point out that we are now facing the deinstitutionalization of social services: they have been unable to reproduce resources (???), deal with emerging needs, respond effectively and ultimately, reinforce the existing social capital.

Qualitative Analysis in Homeless' interviews

In our effort to construct the questionnaire - interview (structured and semi-structured), we first tried to answer questions about how and what we can find out through conducting a field research on a fairly heterogeneous sample (Clarke, 2006; Poggi, 2003; Hoggett, 2001; Hollway, 2001). At this point, we tried to reconstruct the interview taken and form a coherent analytic narrative, a method that is perfectly acceptable provided that the meaning of the data is not misrepresented or distorted in any way (Poggi, 2003; Breckner & Rupp, 2002). Thus, a three stage interpretation process was involved, whereby the researchers explored how the participants are trying to have elements of meaning emerge through this fluidity, combining a direct empathic hermeneutics with a secondary critical hermeneutics approach (Richardson, 1996; Ricoeur, 1970).
Subsequently, we utilized qualitative, thematic and discourse analysis to
appropriately categorize our data. As it pertains to the core categories, and
notwithstanding the limited data due to the challenging research circumstances,
we strongly believe that we came up with interpretative repertoires focused on
this nested sample within this public space.

Analysis of narratives
How can we fit all these moments in a narrative on the current circumstances?

Personal narratives...
How did you get here? "It's a long story..." (Ν100). They describe their process pointing out that "we will all get here" (Ν246), explaining that they got here "from Iran on foot... crossing border after border" (Ν9). It is possible that, aside of their political implications, borders symbolize an internal principle, "the right not to be uprooted" (Jaeger, 1993). They don't just exist externally as a clear objective boundary, "border after border" (Ν9); they mainly exist internally, as a symbolic construct which one experiences subjectively and is further activated by the silent dismay and disapproval when we look away from them, "they walk by and to them I am invisible" (Ν222). The concept of the motherland holds different meanings and appears to be rather complex in the minds of the people that are "on the go". In terms of its symbolic psychoanalytic meaning, this process is described as the abandonment of the container (Stylianidis, 2011; Bion, 1970), eg. the homeland, the community, the family, the mother and the associated social roles. They travel through passages which are dangerous, and very often fatal. Very frequently, they do not wish to immigrate to Greece, but rather to continue their journey on to other European countries "we all came together; we tried to go illegally to Germany, but we got trapped in Greece for the past 3 years" (Ν7).
As for their family relationships, the quality of the connection to their parents is quite disheartening: "difficult childhood, father died, mom was indifferent..." (Ν17), "... because of my parents I didn't get a proper upbringing" (Ν28), "I didn't finish school, mother and father absent or gone; what do you mean "how did I get here?" it wasn't hard!" (Ν30). They lived through pain and instability, loss and separation, experiences that engendered feelings of guilt: "my parents divorced, my mom died when I was 15 years old, and as for my dad I have always been a stranger (to him)" (Ν35).
The process of abandonment and separation that they have gone through and continue to endure has set in motion a chain of events, which are experienced as threatening and traumatic, thus compromising their resiliency and their psychic investment in the future.
While describing their living conditions, they respond very vividly to questions about their living arrangements, their nutrition and their overall quality of life. More specifically, when asked where they sleep, their responses create an interesting mental picture, on the streets... hotels... hospitals... "I have a blanket and I sleep" (Ν224).
Their living conditions are dreadful: "it's horrible! (I sleep) on the grass, on benches, on boxes, and I cover myself with brushwood (hay, branches, etc.)..." (Ν12). "I have been homeless for 5.5 years, sleeping on the streets, in churches, my brother's shack without electricity or water..." (Ν2), "my father is sick; (I) have been beaten up and cussed out repeatedly by police officers; I (sleep) on the streets, my father on Aristotelous street with a bunch of others; 5 people in some dump on Syggrou" (Ν21); I was staying "on the streets, in an empty house, but I got kicked out and the house was locked; sometimes I sleep on its balcony" (Ν77). Immigrants make random spaces their own in an attempt to survive, but also to create a basic sense of connection to the city; this behavior promotes socialization with individuals of the same ethnicity, searching for the necessary "connections" that will facilitate their transition to the next country, etc.
Their self-disclosure leaves little room for further comments: "I take the bus, sometimes I sleep in it and other times on the streets, but either way I keep changing routes and neighborhoods" (Ν227)... How does one bridge the gap between the new and the old life? By creating deep bonds that provide a sense of relief and security. Even an old ticket, that "holds" the memories of the last trip, can easily function as a transitional object (Greek Daily Press).
Their living conditions are undeniably especially difficult, as they are trying to satisfy their basic needs, eg. for food, "through friends, ... sometimes I cook food that supermarkets get rid of after it expires" (Ν7), "I don't eat every day, just when I can get something" (Ν40), "I eat whatever I find, whenever I find it" (Ν77).
When asked if they would change course and redefine their lives, they respond with a sense of hope and resiliency "I am still alive and that is what matters" (Ν250), but also a sense of wanting to claim more for themselves: "What can I do? Do you have something better to offer?" (Ν297).
Stigma vs. self-stigma, a balance so fragile, concepts that describe people that are broken up and lack internal cohesion. When asked to answer "how would you best describe yourselves?", they provide answers that reveal audacity "I am not a nobody, I know who I am" (Ν1), "I am a punk, it's all about me" (Ν26), while some of them reflect a sense of respect "I am dependable for me" (Ν87). Going through a process of delayed mourning, for the most valuable "things" they left behind, they say "I have nothing to say about me" (Ν79), "I am alone" (Ν75). They judge themselves attaching descriptions severely stigmatizing "I am empty; every day I become more and more sick" (Ν245), "the last of the Mohicans" (Ν25). Nonetheless, a small minority states: "poor indeed, but with dreams for the future" (Ν135).
Their narratives vividly portray a sense of auto-exclusion and emptiness, linked with the threat of racism: "(I feel) like am from outer space" (Ν25), "as if I am crazy" (Ν61), "as if I am a beggar, but I am not" (Ν46), "... one day they beat me up badly" (Ν235). At the same time, they state that "I don't have an issue with Greeks, it is the other races that I have trouble with" (Ν74), while they often also experience what it is like to feel like the "ghost-limb" themselves... "it is like I don't exist to them; at nighttime I sleep near bars; people have fun, they walk by and pay no attention to me" (Ν249), "some of them give me coins, others just walk by; to them I am invisible" (Ν222).
In this social space of insecurity and uncertainty, people feel that "everything is possible" in order to survive, thus defying the system of social values, which indicates a lack of internalization of the law and a reproduction of social anomie. This pervasive sense of insecurity activates the "rise of inhumanity", a kind of generalized social paranoia, that creates a perpetual confrontation between the indigenous and the newly arrived inhabitants of the urban space. In this context, we come across the narratives/confessions of immigrants, the homeless, and Greeks residing in the areas where violence has increased dramatically. According to recent articles in the daily press, the despair that Greeks are experiencing reflects a deep seeded pain, more intense than what analysts had predicted. The descriptions of residents in the areas where the homeless and the immigrants sleep draw vicious pictures of a life that sounds more like a thriller. These residents are appalled by the inability of the local authorities to deal with the situation, and utterly exasperated they pose the question "who is in charge here?".
"Selective socialization" appears to be the attitude that the homeless and the immigrants maintain, when answering the question whether they trust that someone can understand them and help them: "Life taught me not to trust anyone" (Ν67), "At Attiki square, I get beat up by children", "they treat me like a dog... (He continues his narrative and visibly emotional he describes his recent contact with an agency that he went to looking for aid) ... they threw the pants at my face as if I were a dog". The fragility of the individual personality and the challenges of adjusting to this reality appear to be counteracted psychologically by a process of "proud isolation" or auto-exclusion of the individual from the large society of the country wherein they reside, as core defense mechanism for their survival (Furtos, 2010; Stylianidis, 2011).
Amongst the issues with which they deal all the time, they state that the most painful experience of their self-representation is social deprivation and marginalization, as: "it leaves you with a lingering bitter taste... the way people treat you" (Ν41). "I can't sleep at night, I pace up and down - up and down like a wolf" (Ν230), "I have no home and no job, I am sick... at night time I can't sleep... all night long I hurt and I spit blood; you want the truth, right? ... this is it" (Ν261) ... and the insecurity "the fear I feel at night, the loneliness, they are way worse than the cold" (Ν232).
The phrase "quality of life" is dominated by a profound feeling of insecurity: "What is this security you are talking about?" (Ν40). They don't feel safe in their day to day life, "don't feel safe at all; it's a jungle here, utter chaos... (victim of robbery) ... one day, while I was sleeping they robed me and they even took my ID" (Ν221), "I sleep with a bat" (Ν69). Within this context, they report that "these days, security is not something I even think about" (Ν302).
Within this state of constant tension, which permeates the fiber of Greek society, carrying with it murders, social conflict, even small rebellions from isolated groups, and in a display of desperation, the immigrants occupied the building of the Faculty of the Law School in Athens for more than one month. Their main request was the legalization of their stay in Greece. This event became a real catalyst for a wider national debate, involving political parties, the Greek parliament, the municipality of Athens, the key ministers of the Greek government and NGOs, as well as social movements of solidarity towards the immigrants. In this dramatic situation, events could have resulted in a much more dangerous and violent outcome. The final compromise was a precarious solution of a temporary permit to stay in the country for one year being awarded. For the Greek society this incident has represented the most powerful example of social conflict and collective urban suffering.
Furthermore, the homeless and the immigrants describe their confrontation with the local authorities both in a positive "I don't have any problems with them, nor do I give them a reason to" (Ν1) and a negative light "(it is) very bad. Yesterday without any provocation they beat me up." (Ν268). The residents of the neighbourhoods where the study was conducted have witnessed murders from their windows. Death has become an intimate part of their daily lives, in a society that self-destructs. It is a constant hide-and-seek game with the authorities "like dogs and cats" (Ν263) creating a general state of outlaw experience, in the absence of basic security and respect of the law. "I believe in justice, but there is none... nobody does anything about it" (Ν70). And how would that even be possible, when they share with us that "I hate cops, and I'll tell you why. They give dope to the blacks, and then not only do they not arrest them for selling it, but they let them sell it to us, and arrest us for buying it" (Ν38). This possibly explains why some of them refused to answer: "I don't want to talk about it. I don't like them". (Ν249).
When asked how someone would be able to help them... they responded "nobody can" (Ν244). On the other hand, they ask us to take a stand; they request that they get photographed with their mouths wired shut as part of a hunger strike "(we need) journalists, so they can see us with our mouths wired shut" (Ν21), so that the world can understand their pain, "hear about our problems" (Ν74). "I need help, I can't do it alone anymore" (Ν245), all I ask for is "psychological support and a friendship" (Ν28).
The power of our thoughts cannot be measured or clearly assessed, but it might be able to better guide us in understanding their answers when asked how they view their lives in the present... "say what? My life has been a storm, a sea. The waves pulled me in and now... now I feel like a castaway" (Ν298)... Sometimes there is not a glimmer of hope, just the thought of "euthanasia" (Ν146) since "they give no consideration to any sort of future" (Ν37); alternatively they defer to a later time, thinking that something will take place "much later. When I leave all this behind me, then I will start living. Right now, I am in a state of preservation" (Ν38). Sometimes they preserve some sort of "present" that allows them to hope and plan: "if I sell handkerchiefs, I will have a future" (Ν297), "yes, if I have someone to love me" (Ν308), even allows them to dream "of course (I dream), everybody does" (Ν41), "of course I dream... it is nice to dream even if they never come true" (Ν61).

Reframing the experiences and comments of this study, major aspects of social suffering in an urban space are being highlighted. The fragmentation of organizations and services becomes evident in the responses of their representatives, revealing a gap in the services provided. Meanwhile, the fear of the residents and their entrapment inside their homes has brought about the phenomenon of double social exclusion. When participants in the sample were asked to comment on anything that they thought needed to be heard, their responses accurately described the current set of circumstances: anxiety, indignation, and desperation... "I hope that no one ever has to be in my shoes" (Ν316); abandonment, restlessness and fear "I am afraid for tomorrow. When you make plans, they never pan out" (318); life experiences, resignation and lack of any hope for the future, disappointment from the social welfare system... "Greece is dying slowly, she doesn't care about her children, we should all leave" (226); but also veiled strength, the desire to claim, will, which are nonetheless obstructed by the absence of life choices.
The phenomena of social exclusion are extremely complex: homeless, legal and illegal immigrants, infectious diseases, HIV, psychiatric morbidity, co-morbidity with physical illnesses, vulnerable children, delinquency and criminality. The state's approach to the various facets of social exclusion appears so far to be inept, in the sense that it provides only fragmented and ineffective solutions. Additionally, primary care and welfare services scorn and stigmatize homeless and marginalized people, which further impairs the continuity of their health, psychiatric and social care. To sum up, they appear unable to take action towards effectively addressing the special and diverse needs of this population, as is evidenced by their inability to develop specialized services, such as Mobile Mental Health Units for urban areas.
The city certainly produces fear, discrimination, and helplessness. Nonetheless, in every community - even during a period of crisis - there is a plethora of resources, technologies and social bonds that could be utilized to provide organized policies and develop networks to address these complex needs. The development of new networks could be achieved if political authorities, citizens, and stakeholders focus on the central problems of socially excluded people, in the particular environment that everyone lives and works, by creating a new democratic and participatory local culture.
Every organization should focus on the expressed needs and requests, and work towards promoting human rights, as well as protecting individuals from arbitrary policies, indifference and discriminations on a daily basis. The goal ought to be to sustain a humane perspective, create meaning, provide inspiration, instill hope and increase empowerment of its users. Nowadays, the main priority should be the development of networks of solidarity and the protection of human rights particularly since robust mechanisms of violence humiliate human dignity. Targeted actions should be employed to increase the awareness and continued education of health and mental health professionals of primary health care, focusing on the development of networking competencies and cultural capabilities for immigrant reception.
Thus the problem of urban/social suffering should be examined in a European and international perspective, creating inventive European networks of good practices between the Metropolises.
As a Greek poet stated:
"I lived in a country that came out of the other one, the real one, just like dreams come out of the events of my life. I called it Greece and I put it on the map so I can see it. She seemed that small - that elusive ' (Elytis, extract from the Small Nautilus).










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Center for urban suffering

The study centre wishes to study the phenomenon of urban suffering, in other words the suffering that is specific to the great metropolises. Urban Suffering is a category that describes the meeting of individual suffering with the social fabric that they inhabit. The description, the understanding and the transformation of the psychological and social dynamics that develop from the meeting of ...

Who we are

The Urban Suffering Studies Center - SOUQ - arises from Milan, a place of complexity and economic and social contradictions belonged to global world.Tightly linked to Casa della Carità Foundation, which provides assistance and care to unserved populations in Milan (such as immigrants legal and illegal, homeless, vulnerable minorities), the Urban Suffering Studies Center puts attention on ...


Centro studi Souq Management commitee: Laura Arduini, Virginio Colmegna (presidente), Silvia Landra, Simona Sambati, Benedetto Saraceno ; Scientific commitee: Mario Agostinelli, Angelo Barbato, Maurizio Bonati, Adolfo Ceretti, Giacomo Costa, Ota de Leonardis,  Giulio Ernesti, Sergio Escobar, Luca Formenton, Francesco Maisto, Ambrogio Manenti, Claudia Mazzucato, Daniela ...
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ISSN 2282-5754 Souquaderni [online] by SOUQ - Centro Studi sulla Sofferenza Urbana - CF: 97316770151
Last update: 20/04/2019

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