Western Balkans Fund News/Events Belgrade Supporting Mental Health Programs through Arts
Belgrade MOVE Grants News/Events Sarajevo Success Stories

Supporting Mental Health Programs through Arts

Art is food for the spirit.

But, as a WBF Move Grants project helped to discover, thanks to “Balkan Hearing Voices Network” (BHMV), it can be also a cure for Mental Health disabilities.

One of the main goals of the BHMV, which consists of the Association Prostor from Belgrade, Slišanje Glavos from Ljubljana, the Association Tavan from Sarajevo and Dom Turnić from Rijeka, is to promote human rights and different approaches within community psychiatry.

Each partner of this network provides mental health programs in the community, and since 2015, within BHVM, it has been implementing projects, using art as a powerful tool for individual support and social change, as well as peer access and the Hearing voices ethos, which strengthens the perspective of “experts by experience”.

Through various projects, formal and informal meetings, participants have the opportunity to learn from their peers from the region, people who have similar life and experiences related to mental health.

In June 2023, a new opportunity for potential encounters opened up, when the Western Balkans Fund announced a second call within the Mobility Grant Scheme for individuals with the aim of fostering regional cooperation through creating connections between people and encouraging active engagement related to local and regional issues and challenges.

This Grant Scheme offered an excellent platform for individuals to become drivers of positive change, fostering a sense of responsibility towards creating a more inclusive, fair and sustainable region of the Western Balkans.

Mediha Kovačević-Jovanović, one of the members of the Tavan Association from Sarajevo, used this invitation as an opportunity for personal and professional development, which included the resources needed to more deeply explore different ways of providing support in the region.

Her project “Rediscovery” started in October 2023 and the main focus is the connection between mental health and art. It aims to understand how different organizations and institutions use art in their work and what effect that work has on people with mental health difficulties.

Also, one of the goals is to strengthen regional cooperation and contribute to the development of new ideas and joint project proposals in the future, through personal connection and networking as an integral part of these visits.

The project included two main activities – participation in “Mentalfest” (a mental health festival organized by Dom Turnić), and a visit to the Prostor Association and learning about support from the perspective of non-governmental organizations and their work in the community.

The visit to Dom Turnić and the Mentalfest festival was organized in the period from October 12 to 17, and in addition to the presentation and participation in the “Art Of Voices” workshops, the exchange of experiences related to the Living Library, Domosong and participation in the self-support group, during the visit there were and meetings with the aim of exchanging experiences and discussing planned activities and ideas for cooperation in the future.

Not long after that, from 27.11. until 02.12. a visit to the Association Prostor from Belgrade, which since 2009 has been contributing to the improvement of mental health in the community with the aim of psycho-social empowerment and recovery of people with mental health problems, was also organized.

During the visit, Mediha participated in program activities and got acquainted with the way in which fine art is used as a medium of support in working with people and what effect that work has on the lives of people involved in various activities.

Visits and participation in various activities of Dom Turnić and Association Prostor resulted in greater connection and a clearer picture of cooperation in the future, on an individual and organizational level.

The “Rediscovery” project also showed that there is much in common with colleagues from the region and that we can learn from each other, which emphasizes the importance of connection and openness to different experiences.

At the same time, it emphasizes how important it is to be open to our differences (e.g. appearance, level of education, socio-economic status, experiences related to mental health), to respect and appreciate them, to be interested in each other and to make our differences a reason for dialogue and not for distance. It also emphasizes the importance of having places in the community, which we will co-create, where we will feel safe.

The work and experiences of people involved in community activities show us that art has a strong driving force and can help in personal empowerment and recovery. Also, that the way we use words and language (terminology) when talking about mental health issues is related to the way we relate to each other, as well as ourselves, when we are in different states of mind.

Finally, but by no means least, that each of us has the right to our own story and the right to define for ourselves what our story is, using our own definitions, and the meaning we give to our experiences.

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