Rome: Peer education on mental health

Empowering people suffering from mental illnesses and their families

Following our trip to Sicily a couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to visit Fondazione di Liegro (FdL), our partner in Rome. FdL’s objective is to build a volunteer and family network for mental health in the Italian capital in order to provide support and improve the lives of the mentally ill.

Carla, the executive director, and Annamaria, a psychologist, gave us a detailed update on the project’s activities and informed us of the structure and complexity of the mental health system in Rome.

Italy experienced a significant change in its mental health sector in 1987, with a radical shift from old mental health institutions to new community-based psychiatric services. This approach was at the forefront of the de-institutionalization movement that is still spreading to other countries.

In addition to all the prevention work that FdL is currently doing, Carla and Annamaria presented the new “peer education on mental health” activity they are carrying out in secondary schools. This new activity was developed for adolescents at the request of the public health authorities after realizing the importance of sensitizing young people to mental health. The information that is passed onto the teenagers includes the symptoms of various mental illnesses and, very importantly, where to access help if needed.

Peer education is an approach based on the fact that some messages are more easily perceived and understood when they are promoted by peers. In the case of mental health, one of the key messages FdL and the health authorities want to disseminate is that mental conditions are indeed real illnesses and that a cure is needed and available.

Another interesting update we received while on site regards the mental health observatory that Fondazione di Liegro is carrying out for the city of Rome. The observatory seeks to identify and compare the mental health needs of the Roman population with the services that are currently available in order to identify potential gaps. It is a complicated initiative and we are happy to know that it is moving in the right direction. The results of this observatory will be presented in January 2017 at the international conference on recovery (more information to come).

Our visits to Sicily and Rome were very fruitful and we are extremely happy to see that both our partners are not only working hard on their projects but that they are seeing results. Keep up the good work!