Close to people | Stories from Bethel

Klaus Jürgen Mann is currently "Jürgen Sorgenfrei"

When Klaus Jürgen Mann began his training as a federal police officer with the Border Guard over 40 years ago, he didn't really know what a mental illness was. He was deployed abroad, travelled a lot and was, in his own words, "in the middle of life". He doesn't really know when it started: "It was a gradual process, but at the age of 25 I experienced the first episode of my mental impairment, which still persists today." Highs and lows followed. Klaus Jürgen Mann is now 59 years old and has been working at the Bethel day centre for people with mental disabilities for ten years. As things stand today, he describes his current life situation with the thoroughly positive words "Jürgen Sorgenfrei"!

Klaus Jürgen Mann had a mental breakdown during a work assignment in Ireland and returned to Germany. After a four-week stay in hospital in Lüneburg and a further five months of "being ill", he returned to work at the border patrol in Lüneburg: "But I somehow just functioned and didn't even think about the causes or triggers of my illness." A few months later, when it came to becoming a civil servant for life, he failed the exam due to his mental illness. "Of course, my world collapsed. I became long-term ill and was unable to work for about five years," says Klaus Jürgen Mann, talking about a very difficult time in his life.

New ways

But in his early 30s, he started all over again: "I started a retraining programme in Hamburg to become a forwarding agent." He graduated at the top of his class and was able to stay with his training company, a shipping company. However, he turned down the permanent job. He simply realised that his illness meant he couldn't cope with the hectic pace of everyday work in an open-plan office with lots of colleagues.

After a brief period of searching, he set up his own business. For more than ten years, he travelled to the weekly markets in Hamburg with his market stall. However, another serious setback meant that he was no longer able to work regularly. And in his private life, he was also separated and divorced from his wife at the time. In 2007, he was once again admitted to a clinic for four weeks, this time in Stade. "A normal daily routine was out of the question at that time. So I was advised to take a look at Bethel's day centre in Hökerstraße in the north to slowly get some structure back into my everyday life. And that really was the best decision I made in my entire life," says Klaus Jürgen Mann looking back.

In the beginning, however, it didn't look like his personal success story at all. By his own admission, he was very quiet and passive at first, almost apathetic from his current perspective. Today he knows that it simply took time to "accept" the illness and come to terms with it. A member of staff at the day centre didn't let up: "He reached out to me and showed me how important joint activities or tasks that you do throughout the day are." The day centre became increasingly important to him: he looked forward to meeting the people there and rediscovered a real sense of purpose in his life. Five years later, he was asked if he wanted to work at the day centre.

Klaus Jürgen Mann (left) and Jürgen Dubau take a look at the visitors' weekly programme together.

Klaus Jürgen Mann didn't think twice and signed his employment contract in 2012. His work fulfils him to this day: He is involved in the transport service, works in the housekeeping and leisure areas and takes care of accepting donations. "For us, he is absolutely an equal colleague who is highly valued by the entire team," says Jürgen Dubau in recognition. The head of the day centre considers the life experience that Klaus Jürgen Mann has gained over the years to be particularly valuable: "He has a very special feel for what our visitors need at any given time. Is it a little encouragement, perhaps a much-needed push? Or is it better to let them calm down and speak to them again when the time is right?"

Text and photos: Ingolf Semper

This story simply told

Klaus Jürgen Mann worked for the police. He travelled a lot. Until he became ill. He suffers from a mental impairment. Today, Klaus Jürgen Mann is 59 years old. He has been working in a Bethel day centre for ten years. There he meets other people with mental impairments. His work makes him happy.

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Contact us

Bethel in the North

Stade Day Care Centre
Hökerstraße 37
21681 Stade

To the website of the centre

Offers & services

The day centre is a facility for people with mental disabilities and is part of community psychiatric care. It works closely with relevant institutions and specialised services. There is help to regain an independent lifestyle as well as occupational therapy services.

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