Erasmus+ youth exchange “A Beautiful Mind” took place in Kaunas, Lithuania on 3rd – 9th of December, 2019. The mobility gathered 35 participants coming from Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Slovenia, Spain and the Netherlands. The project aimed to increase the mental health awareness amid youngsters in order to increase their well-being and decrease stigma towards people facing mental health problems.

THE INSPIRATION OF THE PROJECT

Mental health plays an important role in every person’s life. A mentally healthy person works more productively and is able to contribute to his/her surroundings better. Hence, it is clear that mental disorders can lead to serious problems & wasted human potential.

 

Mental disorders are health condition involving changes in thinking, emotions or behaviours (e.g. depression). According to statistics 38,2% of the EU’s population (164,8 million people) suffer from a mental disorder of some kind. Yet, only a fraction of them has ever asked for (professional) help. Thus, it is important to bring the issues to light & reduce the stigma surrounding mental disorders.

OBJECTIVES OF THE PROJECT

– To define what is mental health and why it’s important;
– To explain how mental disorders are diagnosed and treated;
– To raise awareness about the existing mental health situation;
– To advise how to live a healthier lifestyle and cope with the surrounding stress;
– To find ways of communicating with people having a mental disorder and ways to support them;
– To reduce prejudices towards mentally ill.

PROJECT’S ACTIVITIES

DAY I

(objective: introduction to the project and its rules)

ACTIVITIES:
  • Setting objectives, wishes, learning about Erasmus+ and Youthpass, planning project activities, ice-breaking, socializing games
  • Team-building game – active listening activity lead by a volunteer from Jaunimo linija
The way to improve your listening skills is to practice “active listening.” How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.
MATERIAL:

DAY II

(objective: define mental health and its importance)

ACTIVITY I: An information session about mental health has taught participants basic information about mental health. After presenting mental health and its importance, participants were divided into 5 mixed working groups. Each group was focusing on a different aspect of mental health and later presented main ideas to everyone:
  • Risks/Causes of mental health problems;
  • Promotion and protection of mental health;
  • Care and treatment of mental health;
  • Interesting facts about mental health;
  • The commonest mental health illnesses/disorders.
MATERIAL: What is mental health
ACTIVITY II: Mandalas drawing as a way to express emotions and release stress. 
Benefits of mandalas:
  • They bring peace and tranquility;
  • They give a feeling of calmness;
  • They help with concentration;
  • They make it easier to be mindful;
  • Let your creativity flow;
  • Brings a feeling of balance.
MATERIAL: 
ACTIVITY III: Team quiz on the topic – check the level of knowledge of the participants after informative activities
MATERIAL: Quiz about mental health

 

ACTIVITY IV: Body scan meditation session – as a way to relax and reduce daily stress. Research shows that mindfulness meditation — and body scan meditation in particular — has many mental and physical benefits including reducing stress. Body scanning involves paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence from feet to head.

DAY III

(objective: putting learned methods into the practice)

ACTIVITY I: Visiting Kazlų Rūdos „Saulės“ school: drawing therapy with kids.
During the first days of the project participants have gained basic knowledge about mental health. Moreover, all together we learned how to draw mandalas and what benefits they have. With all this knowledge and practice we went to the school where children having various mental difficulties are studying and living. Together with them we were drawing on the walls, talking, playing, dancing, taking pictures and having all the fun we could have. As expressed by most of the participants this trip helped them to deepen some practical knowledge, experience new things and change their attitude.

 

DISSEMINATION DONE BY SCHOOL: 

DAY IV

(objective: provide tips to cope with stress and anxiety and share ways of communication & help for people with mental disorder)

ACTIVITY I: Workshop “Stress & Coping”. Group-work to analyze the surrounding stressors and how to tackle them. 
Stress is a natural feeling of not being able to cope with specific demands and events. However, stress can become a chronic condition if a person does not take steps to manage it. 
MATERIAL: Stress Management Workshop

 

ACTIVITY II: Workshop “Positive future planning”: interactive workshops where participants could reflect about their future goals. Participants were advised to mainly concentrate on 4 different aspects of their future: occupation, education, free time and relationships. They had to think, reflect and use cuttings from different journals to create their individual future collage. After we had a short discussion of tips on how these future goals could be reached.
ACTIVITY III: Body movement therapy session lead by a psychologist
It’s a well-known fact that moving is good for the body and mind. The mental and emotional benefits of movement are plentiful. The same endorphins that make you feel better when moving also help you concentrate and sleep better, have more energy, and can help you become more resilient when faced with the mental or emotional challenges of life.

DAY V

(objective: provide tips which help to live a healthier lifestyle and help the project’s message to reach a wider audience)

ACTIVITY I: Final knowledge assessment/ project evaluation/ successes & failures of the YE
MATERIAL: 
– Reflexion journal
(This journal was used every morning for individual reflections of the past day. The main point of this journal was to learn how to reflect on gained knowledge and experienced emotions)

 

ACTIVITY II: Making a result dissemination plan (further initiative implementation) / Adoption of working plan / objectives / task division / roles & responsibilities
On the last day participants also created a social media campaign.

SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN

During the mobility, youth have increased their knowledge in the topic of mental health. Participants found out why it is important, what are the types of mental disorders, etc. Moreover, they have learned new techniques how to improve mental well-being.

As one of the goals of this mobility was to disseminate the findings more broadly and to reach as many people as possible, during the project youth had created a social media campaign. Individual photos of the participants were taken and each of them had to write a slogan expressing how important mental health is and how everyone should be aware of this and take good care not only of themselves but also of people around them.

DISSEMINATION:

CULTURAL EVENINGS

Cultural evenings are a form of expression from various countries where they share tangible and intangible cultural heritage from food to dance, music and so on. In a fun and formal way participants engage in interactive activities and widen their knowledge on other cultures” – as expressed by one of our participants (Briffa, 2019).

DISSEMINATION

Dissemination done by the applicant organization in Lithuania “Active Youth”

(The pictures are showing moments from a local workshop which was organized in the children’s hospital at the crisis center. These children are suffering from various psychological problems. Most of them have active thoughts or tried to commit suicide. Teaching them how to draw mandalas and indicating its benefits was a very useful activity for them. They expressed positive feedback after it)

The second local workshop was held at Active Youth’s office. During this activity youth learned more about mental health, it’s importance and also shared their ideas and experiences with each other. After the presentation on the topic, participants who attended the youth exchange implemented more activities; one of which was a workshop about active listening, those who participated learned why active listening plays a crucial role in our lives.

Dissemination done by the organization in Turkey “European Integration Group”

(The pictures are showing moments from a local workshop implemented in Turkey after the YE. A public invitation to attend to the local workshop about mental health was shared on social media. During the organized activity participants shared their gained knowledge and experience with others. Later they also tried some activities in practice)

Dissemination done by the organization in Poland “Inkubator Innowacji” in cooperation with “Green Elephant Foundation”
Dissemination done by the organization in Spain “La Vibria Intercultural”
Dissemination done by the organization in Slovenia “Izobraževalni center Eksena”

PROJECT’S IMPACT

Project “A Beautiful Mind” proved to be a success. The participants will no longer have a stigma (prejudicial attitude towards individuals with mental health problems) connected with mental health and mental disorders. Thus, they will be more understanding of people facing mental disorders. Furthermore, the youngsters are going to be able to talk to their peers, family and friends and help to cope with stress, anxiety and/or other mental disorders.
In addition to extensive knowledge in the topic, the participating youngsters have developed their communication, intercultural and teamwork skills through team workshops/exercises with people. They have also increased/developed their organisational skills throughout all the steps of the project. Lastly, the participants also learned how to use YouthPass effectively, which allows to assess personal knowledge and make self-reflection.

ALL ABOUT THE YE:

PROJECT’S MATERIAL

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