The proximal scope of the project is to empower individuals with mental illness to speak out about their illness. The distal scope of the project is to reduce mental illness stigma in the general public. To meet these aims, we propose to train five individuals with mental illness, proficient in computer and internet usage, to generate original and search engine-optimized content for a blog that will insightful present the individuals behind the derogatory labels and their recovery stories.
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Describe the specific population with whom you will be working.
Who? We will focus on individuals with mental illness as they are exposed to high levels of stigma but play a marginal role in counteracting it. Why? Given that individuals are reluctant to disclose their mental illness, their voices too often remain unheard. How? We will use the online environment as it allows sharing while it ensures anonymity. In Romania, there are no active blogs that provide insight into this community from the perspective of its members. What? Individuals with mental illness vary greatly in computer and internet familiarity. We will involve five individuals already proficient in computer and internet usage, in order to facilitate the formation of a productive digital community. One of these five individuals participated in writing and reviewing this proposal.
Who else will be on your team to help implement the project?
Marian Hurducas (marianhurducas.ro + facebook.com/marianhurducas + twitter.com/marianhurducas + instagram.com/marianhurducas) covers topics such as marketing and communication on his 2000-visitors-per-month blog. He will be one of the two trainers
Robert Katai (markataing.com + facebook.com/katairobi + twitter.com/katairobi + instagram.com/katairobi) covers topics such as blogging and social media on his 1800-visitors-per-month blog. He will be one of the two trainers
Timeea Toth is a prominent public health student, battling schizoaffective disorder. She has experienced stigma, which is why she has taken the pledge to advocate against it. She will be one of the five trainees. She participated in the development of the proposal and she will contribute to the implementation of the project
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
Recovery stories, as unveiled by individuals with mental illness, will be centered on: (a) finding understanding and acceptance of own mental illness; (b) redefining own identity; (c) finding ways to advocate to decrease stigma; (d) helping others along their recovery journey. In addition to these topics, participants will be trained to employ story telling techniques in order to better convey and better document their hardships and successes on their recovery path. We expect that generating such content will greatly contribute to reducing self-stigma and increasing self-empowerment in individuals with mental illness who write or read the blog (individual level) and will greatly contribute to reducing public stigma by presenting individuals behind the derogatory labels (societal level).
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.
Existing partnerships: We are collaborating with the Psychiatric University Clinic in Cluj-Napoca (the largest public psychiatric clinic in the region), the Mental Health Centre in Cluj-Napoca (the largest community mental health center in the region), and Estuar (the largest mental health nonprofit in the country). With their support, we plan to select eligible individuals to be trained as bloggers. We will also build upon the experience of Orizonturi Foundation (Romanian nonprofit with previous funding from Rising Voices). Future partnerships: We will contact all mental health service providers in the region so that they encourage clients to send us stories that highlight their hardships and successes.
How many participants do you think will be trained in your project?
We plan to train five individuals suffering from mental illness, one of which (i.e., Timeea Toth) is already on board. The remaining four trainees will be recruited in collaboration with our existing partners, based on a comprehensive list of eligibility criteria (e.g., computer and internet usage proficiency). In order to ensure retention of our trainees, trainers will provide procedural support (i.e., continuous feedback) and psychologists will provide emotional support (i.e, motivational interviewing) throughout the project.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
Free Media Tools: HootSuite Pro, Google Apps, Google Docs, Google Analytics, Dropbox
Free Social Media Platforms: Facebook, Twitter
Free Plugins: Akismet(ensures protection from web spam), GetPack(provides cloud power), Google XML Sitemaps(facilitates indexing by search engines), Google Analytics(analyzes visitor traffic), Contact Form(implements a feedback form), FeedBurner(provides custom RSS feeds and management tools), SexyBookmarks(adds a social bookmarking menu), Related Posts(links to related content), Dashboard(refreshes dashboard screen), BackupBuddy(allows to backup core database tables), Social Sharing(allows sharing and connecting on social networks), WordPress SEO(allows technical optimization), W3 Total Cache(allows performance optimization).
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
We will hold the workshops within the headquarters of our nonprofit, consisting in two rooms – one of which of over forty square meters, furnished to accommodate ten individuals (ten desks and ten desk chairs). During the workshops: (1) we will provide the trainers with a video projector and a projection screen; (2) we will provide the trainees with one laptop each, with wireless broadband internet connection (speed 4 Mbps).
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?
Open Minds strives for a society in which mental illness is approached with open minds (vision). Open Minds aims to impact individuals with mental illness by improving their quality of life (mission). One of the main mechanisms to reach its vision and its mission is to fight mental illness stigma. Open Minds has extensive experience in the field of mental illness stigma and approaches mental health related issues such as stigma from an interdisciplinary approach, which is why we strongly believe we are very well equipped to implement this project. Open Minds currently plays a central role in the lives of its beneficiaries due to our programs (e.g., Muvit – a physical exercise program for reducing psychiatric medication side effects) and our services (e.g., clinical and social support).
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
The retention of trainees throughout the program might become an issue at some point or another. But we are prepared to overcome this potential obstacle by implementing a motivational strategy called motivational interviewing – for which four members of Open Minds are formally trained. Furthermore, we are prepared to prevent this potential obstacle by offering knowledge transfer and experiential learning through highly interactive and participatory training sessions, but also by providing ongoing procedural and technical support through regular meetings and continuous contact with trainees.
How will you measure and evaluate the project’s impact, specifically: your primary participants, the wider regional community, or the global digital community?
In regards to trainees: we will apply questionnaires (quantitative indicators) and conduct interviews (qualitative indicators) to evaluate self-efficacy in relation to blogging, self-esteem, and self-empowerment before the beginning of the project and once more at the end of the project.
In regards to digital community: we will evaluate the frequency of posts and the quality of posts; we will employ Google Analytics to assess number of unique users that visit the blog.
In regards to regional community: we will apply questionnaires (quantitative indicators) to evaluate insight gained into mental illness and social change in relation to mental illness stigma among the readers.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2014?
Mos 1-3: Register domain and hosting; Build a brand and customize the theme in order to meet the needs and to match the brand
Mos 4-12: Review and update the theme in order to prevent security attacks and update plugins and widgets
Mos 1-3: Train five individuals with mental illness. One four-hour long hands-on training session will be held weekly. Topics such as media production (personal branding, blog branding, blogging 101, social media 101, social networks 101, community management 101) and storytelling techniques (when to use stories, what types of stories to use, how to tell persuasive stories) will be covered.
Mos 4-12: Provide ongoing support to five individuals with mental illness
Mos 4-12: Post content
Mos 4-12: Create online and/or offline ads that link to our blog
Mos 4-12: Post link to our blog in forums or directories
Mos 4-12: Solicit related organizations to repost blog content on their sites
Detail a specific budget of up to $2,500 USD for operating costs.
$50: web hosting
$50: domain name
$50: blog theme
$100: workshop refreshments
$1.000: payment for the first workshop trainer (Marian Hurducas)
$1.000: payment for the second workshop trainer (Robert Katai)
Besides the microgrant funding, what other support can Rising Voices provide for your project to ensure its success?
The project would greatly benefit from mentoring and support on effective means to produce and disseminate outputs.
Open Minds – Center for Mental Health Research