Our organization was founded in 1999 in Krakow by professionals involved in community psychiatry. The Association brings together doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and others whose aim is to promote and develop methods of treatment of the mentally ill in their closest community. The Association conducts educational, research and development activities connected with the therapy and rehabilitation of the mentally ill and supports the development of community psychiatry in Eastern Europe, especially in Ukraine. It was the initiator of the Patients’ Association “Open the Doors”, therefore creating a strong network of NGOs, closely cooperating and complementing each other. The Association runs, among others - Occupational Therapy Workshops for 75 people, Community Self-Help Centre for around 30 people, the “Psyche” theatre and Guest House for patients; it has also co-created a Vocational Development Centre – “At Mr. Cogito’s” Hotel – in which persons after mental crises find employment. For nearly 20 years, the Association has been an all Poland coordinator of the international program “Schizophrenia – Open the Doors”. On daily basis, the Association implements and coordinates numerous projects, focused mainly on education, issues of social and professional rehabilitation, and counteracting stigma placed on the mentally ill. A central idea is to “live, work and get treatment in a local community”.
The aims of the Association include:
• Development of community forms of treatment and support for the mentally ill.
• Forming attitudes focusing on social integration and counteracting social exclusion.
• Educational, research and development activities related to therapy and rehabilitation of the mentally ill.
• Supporting development of community psychiatry in the Eastern Europe countries, especially in Ukraine.
Implementation of the Association’s objectives:
• Development of cooperation between centres of community psychiatry in Poland.
• Exchange for training purposes of workers of all vocational groups from cooperating centers.
• Supporting direct meetings, self-help initiatives and other mutual activities of the mentally ill and their families.
• Supporting initiatives aimed at creation of sheltered jobs for persons with “lived experience”.
Within the implementation of the statutory objectives, the Association develops various programs focused on social rehabilitation of mentally ill persons, with a special emphasis on employment and housing projects. The core concept of our programs is inclusion of the mentally ill persons (further referred to as MIPs) in full social and professional functioning, creation of possibilities for employment and personal development. All people connected with the Association are involved in a comprehensive medical, therapeutic and rehabilitation services in a social and professional
dimension. The Association has in its offer also a community-social care for beneficiaries experiencing mental disorders and their families. The objective of the Association is activities defined in the statute: aid for persons suffering from mental health issues, their families, also by equalling their chances in a social and professional life; support in a technical, financial, training- and information-related aspect for non-governmental organizations and associations, local government units, which provide aid for people suffering from mental health issues. A large number of entities and
organizations from the whole country apply to the Association with a view to obtaining support and aid in their own development.
Work is for many ill people a healing factor, it gives meaning to life, introduces structure, teaches responsibility for oneself and others, allows to build selfreliance and independence, including the financial aspect. Since we are aware of the importance of this dimension, we try as broadly as possible to undertake actions aimed at social and professional activation of mentally ill people.
We run a Vocational Rehabilitation Facility “At Mr. Cogito’s” Guest House and Restaurant. This is a place of work and vocational rehabilitation for mentally ill persons. At present, in “At Mr. Cogito’s” 25 persons after mental crises are employed. All incomes from the facility activities are passed for social and professional rehabilitation of employed disabled people.
The guesthouse is a model example of a company that conducts effective vocational rehabilitation (ergotherapy) of MIPs. The work and direct contact of the employee with the client allows to feel useful, gives a chance to exist in a different role than before, which in turn has a positive impact on functioning in the immediate neighbourhood. Moreover, "At Mr. Cogito’s" is also an Education Centre, both for professionals – future doctors, psychologists, social workers, therapists, as well as the entire local community of Krakow and the surrounding area. "At Mr. Cogito’s" Hotel is a social firm, a cultural
institution, but at the same time has a symbolic value. What is behind this symbol? In Poland, it symbolizes regaining of patients' influence on their own lives, empowering them in the process of recovery. It builds a culture of dialogue between the local community and need-oriented psychiatry. It creates a dialogue devoted to schizophrenia, overcoming the illness and facilitating social integration.
We carry out numerous projects aimed at social and professional activation of mentally ill people, e.g.
1) "Towards work – a comprehensive program for social and professional activation of mentally ill people" – a project co-financed from European Funds. The aim of the project is to visibly improve social and professional functioning and enhance the employment opportunities of 100 people with mental illness through a comprehensive, individualized program including the identification of their needs and potential and targeted services of active integration in this group of people. Main results: increase in the number of people having employment after completing the program increase in the number of people seeking employment after completing the program, increase in social and employment effectiveness, and in particular: increase in motivation to take up employment and to further professional development.
2) "Let's go to work! - social and professional activation of people with disabilities due to mental health issues".
We conduct a wide range of educational activities, based on self-cognition workshops and skillful overcoming of difficulties resulting from the illnessrelated processes.
On our initiative, the "Cogito Academy of Leaders" Patients’ Movement was established, which brings together numerous patients’ organizations from all over Poland. The Cogito Academy of Leaders is a meeting place for the most active, most engaged individuals, who share experience, as well as successes and difficulties at work, which is to foster mutual empowerment, generating of new ideas and looking for ways to implement them. The Academy also supports us in legislative activities for the implementation of the National Program of Mental Health Care and of the psychiatric care
reform in Poland.
In addition, we conduct educational activities for future psychotherapists and community health workers, as well as scientific activities. We are members of the Professor Antoni Kępiński Community Centre of Mental Health Scientific
Consortium. Within our Association, there operates a Schizophrenia Research Group, whose main activity focuses on scientific research, among others, on the course and treatment of schizophrenia, quality of life and social network of mentally ill people, or negative syndrome in schizophrenia.
The Association wishes to share its experience with other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), research and development centres, social aid institutions, mental health centres and persons suffering from mental illnesses
and their families, and therefore promote a community psychiatry model, partly developed in Krakow. "We understand the illness and illness-related processes through the life stories of our patients and in a wider social context – this is the essence of community psychiatry. Our intention is that help be available to our patients in their place of residence and be spread over the shoulders of many people in local communities. We refer to the idea of bond and solidarity. We combine the medical and social model. We create a comprehensive integrated treatment and rehabilitation programme and support people for years in their lives with the illness. We focus our attention on those who are seriously and chronically ill, without losing sight of those who are short- and lightly ill. We support the family and seek support within the family. We think holistically: about treatment, housing, work and leisure time. We organize comprehensive support, oriented at diverse needs of the patients. We make every effort to ensure that it serves as much as possible as a "self-help guideline". We empower healthy resources in patients so that they can help themselves as much as possible.