T he creation of the Union of U sers of M ental H ealth S ervices <<Self-Representation>>. Leonardos Skordos , President. Dear friends, I would like to inform the audience about the union of users of mental health services <<Self-Representation>>, of which I am the President.
I would like to inform the audience about the union of users of mental health services <<Self-Representation>>, of which I am the President.
This presentation is divided in three parts:
In the first part I will refer shortly to who gave us the idea of creating theUnion, and who took that initiative.
The union was one of the goals of the group for self-help and empowerment. This group was not therapeutic, but had as its goal to help and empower psychologically the service users who took part in it, through the friendship and solidarity of the members, through giving information and raising public awareness regarding the users of mental health services, the publication of a newspaper once every three months, and last but not least, the creation of the union.
The group took place from November 2001 until October 2006 in P.E.P.S.A.E.E. (Panhellenic Union for Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Work Integration) in the building of the Center of Social Dialogue, every Monday afternoon. I was responsible for the group, under the supervision of a mental health professional. This effort was supported by the board of directors of PEPSAEE.
The idea was given by a Dutchman named Clemens Huiting, a former user of mental health services and member of the European Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP) . In this effort we had help from the guide book by HUMLET TRUST , which was translated and published by PEPSAEE.
At first,nineyearsago, this group started with a basic core of the four employees-service users of PEPSAEE, and slowly other members joined from other organizations and services of Athens.
We believe that the work that has been done during the six years before the creation of the union and is still continuing, has helped us become slowly but steadily more mature. We would like to function as a union which will express our opinions truly and in freedom, and not as a union which won’t represent our voice and opinions.
At this point I would like to point out the necessity of developing strong relationships between the union and the European and global networks and organizations of users of mental health services, such as ENUSP and WINSUP (World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry).
The Union <<Self-Representation>> was constituted in October 2007, when the first board of Directors were elected from the users of mental health services.
The aims of the Union are social, informative, the work integration of the members, and intervention to the responsible officials of the state in order to improve the legal and medical framework.
The philosophy of the Union is that it does not depend on the relatives of users of mental health services or professionals, but it is distinguished by acting independently and autonomously in matters concerning the users of mental health services.
At this point, I would like to share my experience concerning my psychological state, before I started working at PEPSAEE as an assistant accountant, that is before I was integrated in the society in matters concerning my working rehabilitation. I found myself in a situation where I felt that my future was uncertain, and besides the economic and professional part, that I couldn’t offer something that would give me the satisfaction that I too can do something useful in society.
When I was employed, I believed that finally I could be a useful person in the society, that I could offer many things in my work, I could explore more of my potentials that I had but were hidden, and that I could evolve as a person, spiritually and emotionally.
In addition to these, during the last three years that I am involved in the Union I have experienced new perspectives regarding myself socializing with other people, and taking part in the struggle for ameliorating the conditions and the quality of life for users of mental health services. Even more, it has enabled my understanding of the financial, social and working problems of service users, and the formation of solidarity between the users of mental health services.
I believe that taking part in the Union has made me a more active, optimistic and energetic civilian regarding the prevention of the long-termproblems that service users have concerning the mental health system.
Coming to an end, and on the occasion of the visit of Belgian and Dutch visitors, I would like to say how important it is to let friendship and solidarity flourish between the users of mental health services at an international level, and the empowerment of this movement for social integration, that is the psychosocial and work rehabilitation of service users, no matter in which country they are in.