Discursive exploitation or actual impact: Mental health anti-stigma campaigns in the post-communist area
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Vilnius University
Eglė Šumskienė   

Vilnius University
Submission date: 2019-12-11
Final revision date: 2020-01-06
Acceptance date: 2020-01-16
Online publication date: 2020-03-21
Publication date: 2020-03-21
Arch Psych Psych 2020;22(1):22–33
Aim of the study:
To analyze mental health anti-stigma campaigns in the post-Communist region and identify their main patterns and characteristics.

Subject or material and methods:
Qualitative interviews with nine experts from the national mental health care service user organizations from the post-Communist countries.

The paper presents the situation of mental health care in the region, identifies and discusses peculiarities of local mental health anti-stigma campaigns and presents findings of the qualitative experts’ research. It reveals a twofold positive effect of mental health service users’ activism, which has an individual therapeutic effect as well as helps fight stigma.

Mental health service users' activism echoed the trends in Western countries. Yet in the post-Communist region, these initiatives emerged, developed and evolved over a concentrated period of time. Given such circumstances, certain mental health activists have preserved the institutional and evolutionary memory of the paradigm change from its very beginning in the early 90s. Mental health service users’ activism has a twofold positive effect because it is both useful for their own personal healing, growth, and self-realization as well as for fighting stigma at societal level.

In some countries such activism has failed to reveal its full potential due to lack of financial resources, widespread stigma and lack of leadership abilities. This gap is partially filled in by the human rights and mental health advocacy organizations. Nevertheless, their initiatives and advocacy campaigns insufficiently reveal mental health care service users' perspectives. This leads to certain tensions between both types of organizations, while service users feel being manipulated, publicly stripped and exploited.