Our Mental Health Services Centre, at Avenue des Phalènes/Nachtvlinderslaan 26, 1000 Brussels, (off Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, close to ULB), was contacted by 794 patients (up almost 8% on the 737 in 2016) representing more than 40 nationalities, reflecting the diversity of the international community using our services. Of the 794, 46% were men and 54% women, 38% were aged up to 17 and 62% above.
The Centre has an international and multilingual team (16 at the end of 2017) of professional psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists offering therapeutic services to deal with a broad range of mental health conditions, as well as psycho-educational assessments for children with learning or behavioural difficulties. There are two teams, one dealing with adults and the other with children, adolescents and families. Details of the therapists, their professional qualifications, therapeutic approach and spoken languages are available on our website.
Throughout most of 2017, building construction work going on immediately beside CHS has periodically resulted in considerable noise disruption, not an ideal environment for patients and therapists. At times this will have been very difficult and I thank everyone for their patience. As of April 2018, the project seems to be advancing well, so hopefully the situation will settle down again in the coming months.
Our 24/7 Helpline in English (02 648 40 14), available to children, adolescents and adults, is free, anonymous and confidential and was kept very busy during the year. Whatever a caller’s problem, a CHS volunteer (recruited, supervised and supported by mental health professionals) is always there to offer support or provide information. While mental health services and the Helpline are the core of CHS, another group of professionals, referred to as Affiliated Members, started in September to provide a variety of non-mental health services from the 3rd floor of our premises e.g. art therapy and family mediation. Full details are available on our website.
We expanded our range of promotional materials and now have four brochures covering the Helpline, Mental Health Services Centre, Psycho-Educational Assessments and CHS in general, as well as beer mats promoting the Helpline which are periodically distributed to pubs in Brussels, and boxes of tissues promoting CHS. In order to increase awareness about CHS, we participated at numerous events throughout 2017 organised by e.g. ING, BNPPF, The Bulletin, Vlerick Business School, the European Commission, BBCA, BritCham, the American Club of Brussels and numerous Christmas markets, and we have been much more active on social media, especially on 10 October, World Mental Health Day.
Financially, CHS unfortunately incurred a deficit again in 2017, amounting to €10,338 (2016: €11,536). Total expenditure amounted to €120,216 (2016: €120,553) with receipts amounting to €109,878 (2016: €109,017).
The running costs of the Mental Health Services Centre (MHSC) are generally financed by contributions from the therapists working with CHS. Total MHSC income amounted to €88,830 in 2017 (2016: €82,270) whereas expenditure amounted to €88,630 (2016: €91,370). The swing from a deficit in 2016 to a minor surplus in 2017 primarily reflects higher contributions from the gradually increasing number in the Clinical Team as well as the five new Affiliated Members.
The financial situation with the Helpline is more challenging. While the French, Flemish and German-speaking helplines are all subsidised by their respective regional authorities, CHS receives no subsidies whatsoever. We therefore have to seek out and rely on other sources of income such as the sale of/advertising in our annual calendar, sponsorship (thank you to our sponsors!), fund-raising events, contributions from community associations, and donations from companies, churches, school associations and individuals. In recent years, the amount of income raised has not been sufficient to cover the Helpline running costs, resulting in a deficit of €10,538 in 2017 (2016: €2,436). These recent deficits are gradually depleting the organisation’s modest cash reserves. Income relating to the Helpline in 2017 amounted to €21,048 (2016: €26,747) whereas expenditure amounted to €31,586 (2016: €29,183).
During 2016, the well-respected King Baudouin Foundation (KBF) created a “Friends of CHS” fund within KBF in Belgium to help raise funds for our Helpline. I would appeal to and encourage companies and individuals to support our Helpline via KBF – donations in excess of €40 during a calendar year qualify for a tax certificate which permits a 45% tax deduction in Belgium. KBF issue the certificate early the following year.
Donors in the U.S. can also support the CHS Helpline in a tax-efficient way through a contribution to the “American Friends of CHS in Belgium Fund” at KBF in the United States (KBFUS). Because KBFUS is a public charity (within the meaning of Sections 501(c)(3) and 509(a)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code), donors may claim the maximum tax benefits allowed by U.S. tax law for their contributions. We were especially fortunate to receive one donation of $5,000 during 2017.
At the end of €2017, the KBF Belgium fund held €2,420 and the KBF US fund held $390. During 2017, $5,500 had been transferred from KBF US to CHS. Many thanks to all those who made donations.
In terms of other support:• The under-35s group within the British Chamber of Commerce, “Brussels New Generation” again raised funds for the Helpline during 2017 - €375 from the Charity Bake-off and €583 from two pub quizzes. • Towards the end of 2017, Proximus offered a new tariff for Helpline calls which is expected to significantly reduce this dimension of the running costs. • Euroclear donated some office furniture and equipment.
The budget for 2018 foresees another deficit of around €6,000, linked to the Helpline, with the MHSC-related income covering its costs. However, we will be trying very hard during 2018 to identify additional donors for both of the KBF funds to better finance the Helpline. At the Annual General Meeting in June 2017, Ken Inglis retired from the CHS Board after many years’ service (many thanks again Ken!) and Michael Penning and Julie-Anne Stennett joined the team.
Volunteers play a vital role in CHS. Around 20 support the therapists in the Clinical Team and look after the administrative aspects of the organisation, a separate group ideally of up to 30 (we are regularly looking for new candidates) operates the Helpline, and all Board members also give their time freely. I would like to thank them, together with the Clinical Team and Affiliated Members, for all that they do to allow CHS to provide our unique package of support services to the Belgian international community.
Finally, I would like to thank our Patron, Alison Rose, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, for her continued support of CHS during 2017.
Community Help Service (CHS) is a non-profit organisation established in 1971 that provides information, support and mental health services to people in Belgium who need help and prefer to express themselves in English, regardless of nationality and circumstances.