«Straitjackets and Loneliness, Flowerpots and Tenderness»– A description from the users’ perspective of the help given to persons suffering from mental health problems, seen in the perspective of quality mental health work.

The article is based on twelve Scandinavian autobiographies published during the period 1918 to 2008. The autobiographies are all written by persons who by themselves or by others were seen as having mental health problems. This study describes and analyzes the authors’ experiences with the public health care system. Significant similarities are identified in these experiences across periods and geography. The authors’ state that the staff as individuals, and the material conditions where the treatment takes place, have great significance. The staff that offered more than a purely professional approach were described as good helpers, and homely surroundings contributed to create a sense of respect. However, with respect to medication, the authors are all critical. The findings indicate that quality mental health care should include professionals focusing on human relations and the interaction between people and materiality. At the same time we have to address the question of whether medication ought to be included in the definition of quality mental health care.