Home Healthcare Healthcare Services Mental healthcare in the Netherlands
Last update on November 25, 2021
Magalí Torres Written by Magalí Torres

Navigating mental health services in the Netherlands can be challenging but this guide will help you understand the system and the support on offer.

Mental well-being is an essential element to a healthy life. And, fortunately, if you are living and working in the Netherlands, you will have access to a range of mental healthcare. That said, learning how to navigate the system can be a challenge, especially if you face a language barrier. So, to help you out, this guide will walk you through the following information:

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COVID-19 in the Netherlands

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone. Many expats find themselves separated from family and loved ones in their home countries. As a foreigner, it is also sometimes difficult to find critical information regarding coronavirus infection rates, local measures and restrictions, and now, thankfully, vaccinations.

  • For general coronavirus health information in the Netherlands, including vaccination schedules and locations, visit the RIVM website.
  • For official COVID-19 measures, rules, and restrictions in the Netherlands, visit the Dutch government’s Coronavirus website.

An overview of mental health in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a reputable healthcare system. In fact, it ranked among the top 10 countries with the highest quality of life in 2021. However, just like anywhere, mental health issues are still prevalent across the country. Indeed, according to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), mental health hit an especially low point in the first half of 2021, when 15% of the population aged 12 years or older qualified as “psychologically unhealthy”. This percentage has not been this high since 2001 when the agency first started monitoring mental health.

a woman suffering from depression

Of course, this was partially influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic which lead to increased “feelings of fear, gloom, and stress” among the general population. Furthermore, more than a quarter of people in 2020 indicated that they felt lonely more often during the corona crisis than before. 

Since 2018, the suicide rate in the Netherlands has remained at around 10.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. And although this is not extraordinarily high, it still accounts for around 140 deaths per month. Suicide is also twice as likely to affect men than women.

The latest estimated budget for mental healthcare in the Netherlands is currently at its highest figure; reaching an impressive €7.1 billion designated to the field. However, the new mental healthcare indicators of the Euro Health Consumer Index led the Netherlands to lose its position as the number-one healthcare system in Europe after a full decade. The added indicators now measure ‘waiting time for the first appointment in pediatric psychiatry’ as well as ‘inclination of the trend line for suicide rates’, which the country fell short on.

So, where does the country stand on mental healthcare services? And how can you access them?

Mental healthcare services in the Netherlands

The Dutch government states that mental healthcare is fully integrated within the country’s healthcare system. This is overseen by the Ministry of Health, Wellbeing, and Sports. However, mental healthcare operates directly through the GGZ (Geestelijke Gezondheids Zorg or Mental Healthcare), the institution in charge of the complete network of mental healthcare facilities and professionals across the Netherlands.

a woman having a therapy session

Other relevant institutions include Trimbos, which focuses on drug use and addiction, PsyQ, which provides overall mental health assistance including psychology and psychiatry, and Parnassia, which specializes in psychiatry. Additionally, social organizations provide a variety of voluntary services relating to mental health. For example, De Regenboog Groep created its ‘buddy assistance program’ which links a person in need with a volunteer who can meet with them once a week and help their social needs.

How to access mental healthcare services

As a newcomer to the Netherlands, navigating the Dutch healthcare system for the first time might seem a little intimidating. To assist with that, and to learn about how to arrange Dutch health insurance, you can read our guide to the healthcare system in the Netherlands.

As mentioned in the guide, your GP (huisarts) is your first line of contact when it comes to your mental health. To register with a GP, you must have private health insurance and a social security number (a burgerservicenummer – BSN.

If a GP deems it necessary, they will refer you to either primary or secondary mental healthcare. Primary care is designed to treat mild to moderate problems and can include counseling sessions with a psychologist, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist. However, secondary care is meant for more severe diagnoses such as ADHD, depression, or PTSD, which sometimes involves a specific facility for treatment.

The Dutch government website states that health insurance providers must cover either partial or total costs of mental healthcare. However, the type of care included in the coverage will depend on the insurance provider and policy; therefore, it’s important to check this with them first.

Insurance for mental healthcare services

When moving to the Netherlands, it is essential to know how health insurance works in the country. If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen and only plan to stay in the country for less than a year, you can use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access Dutch healthcare. However, beyond this, it is mandatory for all citizens in the country to have compulsory standard health insurance, in line with the Health Insurance Act (ZVW).

European Union Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The major health providers in the Netherlands usually cover basic mental healthcare. However, the specifics of your insurance company and policy can vary significantly from one to the next. Therefore, it is highly important that you up the level of coverage to fit your individual needs upon arrival. Otherwise, some mental healthcare fees might be left out and you may need to pay for these yourself.

Some of the health insurance companies in the Netherlands include:

You can read more about how Dutch health insurance works in our guide. You can also get some quick quotes by visiting our health insurance quotes page.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists

There are several organizations that provide a list of healthcare professionals ranging from psychologists to psychiatrists and everything in between. In the Netherlands, you require a GP referral to access a primary care consultation with a mental health expert. Basic health insurance policies usually cover this under their ‘mental healthcare’ section. However, for in-depth and secondary care treatment, coverage can vary depending on your health insurance policy.

In the Netherlands, trained professionals provide social services, which can include aid in psychological issues. They are available 24/7 and you don’t require a referral from your GP to access them. Other organizations such as International Social Service Netherlands (ISSN) also provide similar private services and don’t require a GP referral, either.

Drug and alcohol services in the Netherlands

Drug and alcohol addiction can require specialized attention and treatment and can lead to mental difficulties. More often than not, these services are covered in the ‘mental health’ clause of the standard health insurance policy. However, again, the extent of that coverage can vary from one provider to the next. Therefore, it’s important to check the particular coverage range for these services if you think you might make use of them. You can access these services through a referral from your GP.

a woman struggling with alcohol addiction

The network for addiction treatment and derived mental health conditions is wide and large across the Netherlands. For instance, de Nederlandse GGZ is the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care. It provides information on nearly a hundred organizations that are focused on mental healthcare and addiction treatment.

Furthermore, one of the main sources of information and aid in the country is the Trimbos Institute, which gathers over two hundred specialists in the use of addictive substances and their mental health effects. This includes legal substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis. Because Trimbos is an NGO, you do not require a referral from a GP to access it. You can arrange a consultation, even for mild issues, through its website or by calling +31 (0) 30 297 1100.

Services dealing with eating disorders

Unfortunately, government-level information and public resources regarding the treatment of eating disorders in the Netherlands are somewhat limited. However, according to the Netherlands Institute for Healthcare Research (NIVEL), there has been a decrease in the number of incidents of bulimia nervosa over the last three decades; but sustained levels of anorexia diagnoses.

The method for accessing these services is the same as any other – ie. through a GP referral. However, although these services are meant to be compiled under the ‘mental healthcare’ title in your health insurance policy, they generally go unmentioned.

So where can you find help for these issues? One of the main sources is the Dutch Academy of Eating Disorders (NAE), which provides a network of over 150 professionals from a variety of fields that specialize in eating disorders. This includes psychologists and psychiatrists but also nurses, dieticians, and specialized pediatricians. Other recommended organizations include Weet, Novarum, and Changes GGZ.

Mental healthcare for people with severe mental health problems

If your mental health condition is severe and requires long-term admission to a mental health institution or facility, you will be covered for free during the first three years of treatment, as per the Chronic Care Act (WLZ). However, the remaining fees will have to be paid privately if it is deemed necessary that you require more time.

Mentrum psychiatric clinic in Amsterdam
Mentrum psychiatric clinic in Amsterdam

In other cases, where the condition is severe but does not require in-house treatment, your doctor will refer the case to ‘secondary care’. This second referral will involve the care of a specialist who can give their full attention to the issue at hand.

This includes matters such as long-standing personality disorders, severe anxiety, depression, PTSD, and others. Your health insurance provider will partially cover the majority of secondary care treatment. That said, your choice of policy will have a major impact on how much coverage you get and what you can use it for.

You shouldn’t have to wait longer than a week to have an appointment with your GP. However, just bear in mind that referrals between facilities could take some time to process. This is partly due to finding the right fit between you and a healthcare professional.

Children and young people’s mental health

The Dutch government website provides a thorough guide on the different ways to safeguard a child; from Centers for Youth and Family that aid in their upbringing to a National Council for Child Protection that can place children under a family guardian, if necessary. Furthermore, children’s healthcare in the Netherlands is vast and many resources fall under social security provisions.

However, when it comes to children, it is essential that their care and protection also take into account their mental wellbeing. So what additional resources can you find in the country that cater to their mental health?

Children under the age of 18 who are in need of a mental health consultation can be referred by their GP to Jeugd GGZ, an institution that focuses on child and teenager care. These referrals will most likely be for primary mental health consultations with the possibility of further referrals if the issue requires it. There is also a Veilig Thuis (Safe House) in every region of the country which assists victims, perpetrators, and bystanders in the safe-keeping of children as well as young adults and the elderly. You can reach them 24/7 by calling 0800 2000 free of charge.

Mental healthcare services for special groups

In the Netherlands, specific mental healthcare services are provided for certain groups. For instance, women can access a range of services and treatments that fall within the country’s women’s healthcare provision. When it comes to women’s mental health, however, many issues are often related to gender violence. In this case, organizations such as the Arosa Foundation and MIND Korrelatie offer psychological aid to women in need.

a homeless man with his dog in the street in Amsterdam

NGOs such as Opvang Atlas can also help and find suitable shelter for people who are either homeless or fear they will become. This includes those who are leaving imprisonment, victims escaping sexual exploitation, or anyone who no longer feels safe at home. Slachtoffer Hulp Nederland does a similar job but also aids in the criminal process and the search for compensation for victims. It works together with the police as well as other major institutions and offers its services for free.

Additionally, the Psychogeriatric and Intellectually Disabled Persons Act (WZD) protects people with intellectual disabilities or dementia. It covers the fees of voluntary care for those living with these conditions. Finally, because of the Compulsory Mental Healthcare Act (WVGGZ) in the Netherlands, people who might pose serious harm to themselves or others are also covered for their mental healthcare needs. In turn, they also have a body of legislation in place that protects their rights during care.

Mental health prevention and education programs in the Netherlands

One national mental health program worth mentioning is the Dare to Ask Foundation. Using famous Dutch YouTubers as their main ambassadors, the platform aims to open up the conversation about mental health among young people and encourage them to seek help. The project is part of the ‘Hey, it’s okay’ initiative by the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport.

Furthermore, in 2022, the Netherlands will boost its funding of mental healthcare as it transitions to the ‘care performance model’. This aims to provide faster, easier, and better quality diagnoses for patients and reduce administration to what is strictly necessary.

Emergency support and crisis lines

Below are the main emergency support services and contact numbers in the Netherlands. You can find more in our detailed guide.

  • Police (Politie) – 0900 8844
  • Ambulance/Health emergency – 112
  • Netherlands Suicide Hotline – 0800 0113
  • Veiligthuis (National Domestic Violence, Child Abuse and Elderly Abuse) – 0800 2000
  • Sexual Violence Hotline – 020 613 0245
  • Children Abuse Hotline – 0800 0432

Useful resources

  • Government.nl – the main mental healthcare page from the Dutch government which provides information on how to seek help
  • Government.nl – provides information about the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport in the Netherlands
  • Geestelijke Gezondheids Zorg (GGZ) – the institution that provides a network of mental healthcare across the Netherlands
  • Access NL – an NGO that is dedicated to expat healthcare and provides an on-call counseling service