Established institutions in Bulgaria, including schools and public administrations, are for the most part conservative and often out of touch with the needs, demands and interests of new generations. In the intensively changing world we live in, and we need to be more open to new ideas and changes. One of the tasks of projectLIKE is aimed atthis direction – to create an environment that is as responsive as possible to the needs of young people through innovative methods that not only positively affect them but also others: to change their attitudes towards those who have a mental illness, to reduce prejudice and limit discrimination.
Training and workshops for the community, professionals, professional guilds and institutional representatives play a crucial role. They aim to inform about the nature of mental illness and to provide guidance, especially to employers andto other stakeholders (teachers, doctors, etc.), with the ultimate goal of integrating young people with mental health problems into a specific environment: work, training or a field that is directly linked to the services they could benefit from. By obtaining guidance, experts from different professional fields acquire knowledge and skills to later succeed in building an environment,welcoming and accepting for people whosufferform a mental illness.
Project LIKE disseminates leaflets, articles, publications and other items that contribute to openness about mental health and support an important cause: the fight against stigma, which, unfortunately, is quite widespread both personally and in society. The individual counselling that professionals carry out with the relatives of the clients of the youth house impacts the existing self-stigma: it reduces it, thus bringing a change in thatpart of society that feels most deeply affected. By learning that mental suffering does not constitute a cause for shame, fear, or social distance, each individual can change his or her outlook and attitude, above all, directed toward those suffering.
On the other hand, conventional methods, entirely bound to theoretical work, are replaced by more informal techniques, which allows to involve and engage young people in various activities, together with others who have similar understandings, goals and needs. The individual is at the centre of the work, not simply as separate and independent, but as part of something larger, a whole team.
One example of this is gardening – by engaging the hands, we unburden the mind. Time spent in nature has been shown to have a calming effect. Project LIKEuses this in combination with labour. In this way, visitors can leave something meaningful behind, make an effort and see results.
Since caring for a planted plant can have such a significant effect, imagine what would happen if attention was focused on another living thing that moved, showed emotion and thus managesto respond to the love with which it was bestowed. Project LIKE manages to put this idea into practice, bringing love through animal therapy into the work with theclients.
Before we can take care of others, it is essential to take care of ourselves – to express our feelings and thoughts – freely, without fear or restrictions. Writing and paintingsometimes succeedsin saying what speech failsto express. The project uses creative techniques to help its NEETs express their most profound torments and longings without letting the weight of worry take over. We are not looking for finished works of art here – we are looking for the truth – unadulterated and pure.
Despite all the alternative options for creative expression, established methods such as storytelling and discussionsare not ignored – they are simply refracted through the Youth House’s prism.To make it as useful as possible for NEETs, both the objective point of view of the professionals here and that of people with similar experiences are provided, which can help the NEETSlook at things from a different angle. The environment in which this communication takes place is cozy, informal and conducive to self-disclosure. That is why it is aYouth House. People who come should feel at home. A familiar setting is always preferable to a cold office or classroom, where we are anxious not to give the wrong answers to the questions asked. There are no right or wrong answers here – there are only shared and hidden truths.
Since people are unique in their own wat, the delicate part is finding the most effective way for eachindividual. Once they realize that they will not be judged for their feelings and thoughts, young people begin to relax and share openly. And this is exactly the goal of the project – to create a place where those in need come willingly. A place where everyone is calm to be themselves, without putting on socially desirable masks and playing roles. A place where one discovers one’s soul and receives understanding, not evaluations and remarks. A place you unconsciously return to when you are anxious and from which you leave full of hope.