For over a year, the Orizonturi Foundation’s “Blogging the Dream” project has been laying the groundwork for a collaborative blog written by their mental health service users. A few months ago the blog became a reality and has since explored various aspects of mental health in Romania.
Based in Câmpulung Moldovenesc, Romania, the Orizonturi Foundation has been helping people with mental health issues for almost 15 years. Last year, through a Rising Voices micro grant, they launched Blogging the Dream, which consists of a Blogging Club made up of their mental health service users. The goal of the Blogging the Dream project from day one was to develop a collaborative blog, in the hopes that it will help decrease the stigma and discrimination that people with mental health issues face in Romania.
But first the club members went through a hands-on practicum period, where they were trained on how to maintain a personal blog, use digital cameras and upload photos, among other things. They spent a few months practicing their newfound skills. In August, the members’ skills were combined and the collaborative blog was launched, featuring news, information and personal stories related to mental health issues. The first post shares where the inspiration for the project came from:
Over a year ago our former Peace Corps Volunteer, Mara, told us about the micro-grants from Rising Voices, an outreach program of Global Voices, that was collaborating with the Open Society Institute to focus on public health issues involving marginalized populations.
The idea of a program that uses a blog as a form of advocacy for people with mental health problems filled us with enthusiasm, and we immediately started writing the project proposal…We honestly didn’t expect that Orizonturi, a small organization in northeastern Romania, would receive this micro-grant because organizations and people from all over the world were eligible to apply. Thus we were overjoyed and felt a great sense of responsibility to successfully implement this project.
Before the collaborative blog was launched, organization members were posting updates on another Rising Voices blog. The latest post on that blog talks about how even though the launch was a slow process, the goals remained the same from the beginning. It also discusses the type of content they want to post on the group blog:
Any content that will promote the reality that people with mental health problems are complex individuals who also have hobbies, dreams and successful lives will be included. Ideally, mental health service users within Romania and abroad will be able to communicate, build relationships, establish dialog on advocacy issues and other relevant topics within their community. Furthermore, the blog content will promote a positive image of people with mental health problems and provide more comprehensible information about the mental health field. News and information provided through the blog will help the community to become informed, as well as aware of its value, power and influence to make change happen.
Since its launch, the blog has posted various items, such as announcing the winner of the first EU Health Journalism Prize in which Romanian journalist Emilia Chiscop won third place for her article on a young doctor coping with schizophrenia. The blog also features personal reflections from its club members and those in the community. In this post, for instance, Mirela Ungurean discusses how communication and the Internet, while not a replacement for a shoulder to cry on, can greatly benefit those with mental health issues:
When someone has a mental health problem this does not mean his entire universe, life experiences, dreams and hopes stop. It simply means that he will need help to live as he once did, and to utilize all his abilities, as well as his human, social and professional qualities. In order to do this, communication is needed…
…Therefore, I believe the Blogging the Dream project is a great opportunity for people with mental health problems to value themselves and communicate to the world that they too are able, have aspirations, can accept challenges, and need people who trust in them and share their thoughts…
…I have observed that each participant is writing about their own interests, loves and needs on their personal blogs. This is a form of self validation; to openly express your own thoughts knowing that someone can read and share them. If it is possible for participants to communicate with other people in various parts of the country or even the world, they will understand that they are not alone and that everywhere, regardless of continent, country, family or education, that a mental health problem is something that is possible to overcome with the help of those around them and those who care!
One of the bloggers, D.C., uses the group blog to express how he is not insane or a monster, despite how society may try to characterize him:
In my eyes, I am not insane. As long as it is impossible to know a man entirely, I can determine when psychotic delirium occurs if I apply personal logic that justifies my being, in which nobody else can understand. But, because the reality around me extracts different stimuli from my neuronal network (let’s say that I choose to see a particular 100 bits and not the 100 chosen by others, or I process noise that you understand although not as music to which you’ll dance), you have decided that I am insane. Is that bad…
…Big deal, I thought. If I were like others, I would lose myself. But I forgot that if I’m not as good, I am directly responsible for all that is bad in this world. I am automatically a danger to myself and others around me – because if a disease exists someone must be suffering badly, they are a social parasite that sucks money from the government (disability pension) – because you found me unfit for work I must stay in the hospital (”poor carers who struggle for you”) – because I don’t manage alone, I’m guilty, my parents are guilty, I was not a child – as Freud says, I was a polymorphic monster…but nobody knows how you’ve decided that I am these things.