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Amsterdam, NH, 1013 AS

+31 (0)20 2629913

Beautiful Distress was founded on the concept that there is a great deal of mental suffering, that not enough people are aware of this and that not enough is done to stop it.

The Foundation uses art in an attempt to open up the world of psychiatry and battle the stigma attached to it.

Why art? Beautiful Distress believes that art is pre-eminently capable of articulating and depicting the human condition




Filtering by Category: English

New Book Release: "Notes From Kings County Hospital" by Mirthe Berentsen

Stichting Beautiful Distress

Gladly we would like to introduce our new book “Stories from Kings County Hospital”, a carefully composed play made out of a fragmentary collection of stories, poems, pictures and observations. Written by Mirthe Berentsen and designed by Sarah Cleeremans, the publication culminates a six-month stay at the mental health department of Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York — on invitation by the Beautiful Distress Foundation, which uses art and literature in an attempt to open up the world of psychiatry. To achieve this, Berentsen investigates the reminiscent and romanticised clichés of the correlation between art and madness, the psychiatric hospital as a biotope for American politics and escaping reality by creating a counter-narrative.The result is one in which the complexity of things converge: madness, gender, the limitations of care, the inevitability of death and the power of language.

Mirthe Berentsen (NL/DE) is a writer, journalist and cultural policy advisor. With a background in politics, art and literature, Berentsen writes about manifestations and tendencies inside and outside society, technology, radical innovators and challengers of the status-quo.

Sarah Cleeremans (BE/US) is a graphic designer & typographer with a special focus on printed matter and an interest in the language of the body & the body of the language. Currently trying to haste herself slowly towards the completion of her WT studies.


Available in the WT Shop

Werkplaats Typografie
Agnietenplaats 2
6822 JD Arnhem
The Netherlands
Tel. +31 (0)26 - 3535774

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22 november - Studium Generale: Beauty in Distress - Breaking Down Stigmas Around Mental Health

Stichting Beautiful Distress

Lecture by Mirthe Berentsen

do 22 november 2018 16:00 - 17:30
Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten - Den Haag

Mirthe Berentsen will talk about her residency at the mental health department of Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York via the Dutch organization Beautiful Distress and the novel she is working on, about language, privacy and psychiatry.

In March 2018 Berentsen wrote an op-ed in the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant that can be read as a plea to stop casually labeling people, as it leads to further stigmatisation of people that are actually suffering from their heads. In this article she points out the strength and danger of words and the context they are used in, as it’s easy to put a label on someone who loves to clean his house, or who is uncomfortable during social interactions. But this tendency, to analyse and stigmatise someones behaviour, causes persistent noise in both the political and personal conversation. If you disagree with someone’s views and you ridicule them by calling them crazy or untrustworthy you can avoid any debate and confrontation.

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Mental Superpowers

Stichting Beautiful Distress

Lady GaGa, Diane Arbus, Vincent van Gogh, Kurt Cobain – the list of geniuses with mental health issues is long and well known. But how do the two relate to one another? Or, to rephrase the question, can a mental illness also be seen as a superpower? To answer this question Jan Hoek spent three months living in a psychiatric hospital in the residency of Beautiful Distress in Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn, collaborating with the hospital’s clients and other unique individuals he met in New York. This comic book, Mental Superpowers, is the result.

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Pre-order now: Mental Superpowers, a comic by Jan Hoek

Stichting Beautiful Distress

Jan Hoek about his work In Kings County: "This year I did a residency with Stichting Beautiful Distress in a psychiatric hospital in Brooklyn where I lived and worked for three months.

Together with clients/patients I made (partly photographic) [a] comic about the believe that a different state of mind can also be seen as a superpower, and not only as an illness. 
In the comic me (I talk about my own mental state as well), patients/clients from the hospital and other artist struggling with mental health show their visions on Mental Superpowers."
You can now pre-order the comic and you will be the first to receive a copy when it's released in September (and you support the project in a early stage!)

Pre order the comic Mental Superpowers now on

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Mission Nose Out

Stichting Beautiful Distress

A group of students from the Rietveld Academy and a group of New Amsterdamers artists (refugees with residence permit) went in couples on a voyage of discovery, through new experiences and places they have never been to before. They will share the results of this experience, ideas they've exchanged, and artworks they've made. The variety of cultural backgrounds played a decisive role in this project. Both, the New Amsterdamers and the students come from countries from all around the world.

The couples have worked on joint or separate works that formed a combination, a dialogue, or an encounter between them, Photography students at the Academy and their multidisciplinary art mates.

Art is the connecting factor.
A project supported by the municipality of Amsterdam and the Rietveld Academy. 


Mazen Al Ashkar, Dora Lionstone, Nazar Haji, Luca Penning, Yara Said, Alizé Wachto, Marwa Mezher, Tomás Feijo, Roua Jaafar, Aurelié Sorriaux, Mohammed Hassan, Ju An Hsieh, Raafat Ballan, Sofie Bredholt, Shreya Desouza, Marta Capilla, Alma Kim, Muhanad Rasheed

A project set up by Essam Zaki, Hanne Hagenaars, and Vincent Zedelius

THURSDAY, 21 JUNE, 2018, 16.00 HRS

Beautiful Distress Huis  Ms. van Riemsdijkweg 41A, 1033 RC Amsterdam

21 June - 1 July 12:00 - 18:00

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Carlos Rodriguez-Perez Honored For Art in Mental Wellness Program

Stichting Beautiful Distress

Carlos Rodriguez-Perez, MA, LCAT, RDT/BCT, director of wellness and recovery at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County, has been honored by the organization No Longer Empty for his steadfast commitment to the community through art intervention. The body of work for which Mr. Rodriguez-Perez was honored—at the No Longer Empty’s annual Future Perfect Ball, held April 10—includes his oversight of the hospital’s Artist-In-Residence Program, which engages artists as studio residents within the hospital. Among the program’s goals, it aims to reduce the stigma associated with youth suffering from mental illness.

The Artist-in-Residence Program takes the innovative approach of exploring mental illness through creative arts and incorporating art interventions to impact health care outcomes. At NYC Health + Hospitals/King County, Mr. Rodriguez-Perez built one of the largest teams of creative arts therapists found anywhere in a single institution as part of redeveloping the group behavioral health programming for inpatient services.

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SEE OVERLEAF - opening April 6

Stichting Beautiful Distress

SEE OVERLEAF is a research project of students and alumni of the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Utrecht and Vivian Bax from the MA St. Joost in Den Bosch. At the invitation of Het Vijfde Seizoen, the artists worked in the residency at the psychiatric institution Willem Arntsz Hoeve. Inspired by this unique place and in collaboration with patients from the institution, they made new work.

Opening April 6, 17.00-19.00

7 April to 13 May, Thursday to Sunday 12.00-18.00
Beautiful Distress project space
Ms. van Riemsdijkweg 41 - Amsterdam-North

Airy, tender, evasive, scanning, spontaneous, negative, improvising: SEE OVERLEAF shows how art can relate to psychiatry from different perspectives. For example, Nuni Weisz created musical instruments that allow you to listen to the mood of others and researched Vivian Bax methods to channel anger. Koen Kloosterhuis made a more than life-size ear and wrote a surreal story inspired by the experience of one of the patients with whom he attracted a lot.

The exhibition is opened by Frank Koolen, head of Fine Art HKU and Anno Dijkstra, lecturer HKU. Furthermore, an interactive performance by Anita Horvȧth takes place.

Beautiful Distress Kunstmanifestatie was a great success! That is why Het Vijfde Seizoen and Beautiful Distress will continue to work together in the new project space: Beautiful Distress in Amsterdam-Noord (between Sexy Land and New Dakota)

[this post was machine translated]

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Writer and artist Jan Hoek succeeds Mirthe Berentsen in our residency in NY.

Stichting Beautiful Distress

Jan Hoek (1984) is an artist and a writer. In his work he is always attracted to the beauty of outsiders worldwide and always keen to collaborate intensively with people that normally are overlooked to create a new image together. He photographed a Amsterdam based ex heroine addict who always dreamed of being a super model, he collaborated with a group of trans sex workers in Cape Town who roam the streets in the most stunning self-created outfits, created psychedelic zines about the sex tourist capital of the world Pattaya in Thailand, and made a series about the Maasai who not identify with their jumping stereotype image, and sometimes he finds his models just on the internet. In the universe of Hoek the 'normal' people are the strangers and the outsiders are the funky rulers of this planet.


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Relay Column 4 - Mad Matters

Stichting Beautiful Distress

One of the objectives of Beautiful Distress is to fight stigma. Therefore we regularly publish a column about stigma on our site. Read the new column by Grietje Keller.

Grietje Keller works at the The Public Health Service of Amsterdam (GGD Amsterdam) and chairs Reading groups in Mad Studies with the Perceval Foundation.  


Organizations that combat stigmas would rather counteract (self) stigmatization. Personally I have come to the conclusion that the problem is not the stigma, but the psychiatric diagnosis itself. I therefore prefer concentrating on the discussion of the medical rational in psychiatry, rather than combating the stigma.

Some people who had ever had a psychiatric diagnosis come, sometimes years later, to the conclusion that making that diagnosis was totally irrelevant for finding a solution to their problems. Indeed it just made their problems bigger. This is a curious phenomenon. Mad Studies have given me the words and concepts to understand how that is possible.

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This Artist Residency in a Hospital Is Helping Combat Mental Health Stigma - [Artsy]

Stichting Beautiful Distress

This Artist Residency in a Hospital Is Helping Combat Mental Health Stigma



SEP 27TH, 2017 5:11 PM

  • Marijn Ottenhof's studio at King's County Hospital. Photo by Marijn Ottenhof. Courtesy of Marijn Ottenhof.

Dutch artist Marijn Ottenhof wasn’t expecting to spend her summer in a mental health hospital. But when Fleur Kuypers invited her to participate in Beautiful Distress, a residency located within the Behavioral Health Center at Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital, she immediately accepted.

Just weeks after Kuypers extended the invitation, Ottenhof quit her job in Amsterdam and settled into a room located in a mostly empty tower on the hospital’s campus in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. Her spare quarters were just a short walk from the R-Building, where patients are treated for mental illnesses ranging from depression to schizophrenia to substance addiction. There, she would spend three months living, working, and interacting with the hospital’s mental health patients.

—Alexxa Gotthardt

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Stichting Beautiful Distress

One of the objectives of Beautiful Distress is to fight stigma. Therefore, from now on, we will publish a regular column about stigma on our site. Read the second contribution by Vos Beerthuis, psychiatrist in Amsterdam. You can find the first column by Wilco Tuinebreijer here


‘Have you ever met a normal person? And, liked it? ‘This slogan could be seen in the Netherlands in the seventies. It hasn’t lost its poignancy. Almost all of us have a screw loose. And this makes us interesting. That is, theoretically. Because in reality we don’t readily admit if there is something wrong mentally. Nowadays we are allowed to speak out on most physical illnesses. But a mental disorder is a different story. Doctors first started to describe psychiatric impediments in specialist literature. Next to come were novels, plays and movies, and peers started to share their experiences. In the past decades we saw ego documents: patients, who described their illnesses, told their stories in books and on television. But still it is quiet rare for a patient to tell the story of his or her malady in public. On Facebook I recently read the story of a student who had been diagnosed with a panic disorder.  He had to overcome a lot to dare to ask if someone else was having the same disorder.  Shame, ignorance and lack of understanding still lead to patients suffering in loneliness.

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