Carrying out this project we’ll help young people (18-35 years old) with mental health issues to tell their stories and connect with each other. Through storytelling trainings they’ll learn the best way to share their experiences and use of coping mechanism and through training for blogging they will gain skills for increasing their visibility. Furthermore, though this process people with mental health issues will be transformed from passive consumers of mental health care into experts by experience. Simultaneously MH practitioners will gather more data from narratives within social context.
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Describe the specific population with whom you will be working.
Beneficiaries of this project are young people from 18-35 years with mental health issues who at some point were consumers of mental health care for either acute or chronic problems. This is justified having in mind that Macedonia is a country where little attention is given to this vulnerable group, they are either ignored or seen through the prism of stereotypes. Additionally, mental health problems are linked with social isolation and lack of social capacities. As psychologists we want to help them in identifying resources and mechanism for facing everyday situations. Most of them already use social media like Facebook for reasons other than sharing personal stories and problems they face. MH practitioners will be also included since they’re on the other side of the system.
Who else will be on your team to help implement the project?
Psychologist – Jasmina Mihailovska
Psychologist – Elena Dimusevska (https://www.facebook.com/elena.dimushevska )
Psychologist – Aneta Nacevska (https://www.facebook.com/aneta.nachevska?fref=ts )
IT – Milos Grkovski (https://www.facebook.com/milos.grkovski?fref=ts )
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
Our target group will be trained in effective storytelling and later in creating and maintaining a blog. The blog is seen as a discursive space where they are free to openly discuss and share their experience regarding their mental health state through writing personal articles, sharing videos/pictures, participating in discussions. Themes of interest are their experiences of the problems, the early signals and symptoms of the problem, coping strategies, difficulties, medical news etc. Additionally, they’ll actively engage in breaking stereotypes and prejudices, towards increasing general public sensibility and deeper understanding for people facing mental health problems. MH practitioners will also be trained in promoting these blogs in order to achieve bigger social outreach.
What technologies and digital tools do you plan to use in the trainings?
Describe the connections that you or your organization have already established or plan to establish that will contribute to the success of the project.
We’re active members of the Macedonian Chamber of psychologist where we are connected with many professionals working with clients with mental health issues. We’re also members of the Macedonian Association for Psychotherapy. Since our internship took place in the Psychiatric clinic Skopje, we are well connected with our colleagues working there. Throughout our experience we have had qualitative cooperation with the NGO sector dealing with marginalized groups – HERA, HOBS etc. Also, we’re in continuous contact with some private mental health institutes – Gestalt Institute Skopje, Institute for Systematic and Family therapy “Alternativa”, Assosiation for Psychodrama “J.L.Moreno”.
How many participants do you think will be trained in your project?
Our assumption is that there will be around 30 participants. We intent to train 10 psychologists and psychiatrist and 20 mental health service users. With the help of our connection we’ll make availability sampling for the mental health providers and for the users we’ll go with availability and snowballing sampling. When we’ll have our participants recruited we’ll give them to sign a contract for participation. We’ll do our best to continuously motivate them for maintaining a high level of participation.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
For the workshops we’ll use 10 laptops, connected on the Internet and a projector. Also, we’ll make video recordings of the workshops. The project will concentrate on blogging since we see it as way of highlighting the interactive and emergent nature of dialogue in social media space. It is personal (sharing stories, videos, photos, music, personal art etc) and yet it is social, it is based on giving and taking. We’ll be training both service providers and service users since we believe the dynamic of patient and expert relationship is built on basis of differential power and through social media this relationship tends to flatten the traditional hierarchies.
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
The working space is approximately 20 m2 and has 10 available working tables with four chairs each, LCD projector and wireless internet connection that can be used for free. The space is part of the NGO center in Skopje and it’s available for non-governmental organizations with no charge. We’ll be using this facility with assistance from the organization where we volunteer. NGO center is located in the city center, as part of the Youth cultural center.
What is your current relationship with the community with whom you plan to work? What makes you the most appropriate individual or organization to implement this project?
As psychologist, we have a direct contact with people with mental health issues, as with experts working with this group. Our experience with in-patients and out-patients has given us the opportunity to see the problems these people face on every day basis and the level on which the public health sector provides them with what they need. With this tool (blogging) in our hands we’ll engage in fighting resource challenges facing the MH sector. If this turns out successful, in future we plan to include family members, partners and close friends of people suffering from mental health issue in sharing their story about living with a person facing MH problems.
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
MH problems are seen as unpredictable, unknown, dangerous. People suffering from them are either victimised or blamed. It’s shameful and often kept secret. The existing treatment is making them passive consumers of meds, which takes away their own responsibility for their health. Considering this, are main challenge would be maintaining their motivation for participation. This is why we’ll work with younger group, who already use the Internet and social media. The first workshop is treating the subject of identity connected to the diagnose. Later on we’ll try to give them the opportunity to recover by obtaining personal responsibility, orient them to choice and self empowerment. For participants outside Skopje, transport will be paid and refreshments will be available all the time.
How will you measure and evaluate the project’s impact, specifically: your primary participants, the wider regional community, or the global digital community?
For the MH providers that will participate we shall have follow-up checks and supervision. Questionnaires will be designed (we have professional experience in research methods and techniques) to assess their opinion and perception towards the blog; they will rate the level of usability of the blog in their work. For the MH care users we shall administer standardized personality questionnaires used in the clinical settings. These tests will be administered and at the end of the project, 8 months after the initial testing. Throughout the project we’ll continuously supervise the participants’ engagement and level of participation. We’ll monitor blog views, comments. The actual number of blog users will be other indicator of success.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2014?
Activity 1 – Selection of participants for trainings
Activity 2 – Preparation of training materials
Activity 3 – Workshops “Label vs Identity” (selected participant will be divided in 3 groups, 10 participants in each group. Every group will have three one day workshops on this topic)
Activity 4 – Training “Story telling” (every group will have three one day trainings on this topic)
Activity 5: Workshop – Using of social media for promoting human rights/ raising awareness about different social issues (every group will have one day workshop on this topic)
Activity 6: Developing and maintenance of blog (one two day workshop for the two groups with young people with MH problems)
Activity 7: Mentorship meetings (two meetings per month)
Detail a specific budget of up to $2,500 USD for operating costs.
Project coordinator- 8 months x 50 $ = 400 $
Trainer for “Label vs Identity” – 9 trainings x 30 $ = 270 $
Trainer for “Story telling” – 9 trainings x 30 $ = 270 $
Trainer for activities 5 and 6 – 7 trainings x 30$ =210 $
Working materials – 21 trainings x 5 $ = 105 $
Lunch and refreshment – 25 trainings x 25 $ =625 $
Phone costs – 8 months x 20 $ = 160 $
Travel costs – 100 $ (for participants outside of Skopje)
Besides the microgrant funding, what other support can Rising Voices provide for your project to ensure its success?
Any publications we can use on online safety, any stories you have regarding this target group on using social media. If you can point to other organizations from the globe that you know are working online with this target.