The Bipolar Foundation: Learning in pairs at the Recuperation Services.
Founder and Director of Fundación Mundo Bipolar.
Bipolar disorder affects almost 2% of the population and although it’s a serious mental disease, there are treatments available now which allow suffers to lead normal lives. However, these individuals still experience prejudice, stigmatization and discrimination affecting their human rights.
In Spain, the first association created for individuals with mental health issues was the Bipolar Association of Catalonia, at the time there were only associations organized by family members of people with Schizophrenia. The Bipolar Association of Catalonia was followed by bipolarweb.com in 2002, this was also the beginning of the Bipolar World Foundation (BWF). Bipolarweb.com allowed for the sharing of experiences to benefit all participants and inadvertently started the change in the conception of power within the therapeutic relationship.
In this context, the BWF commenced in 2004, a nonprofit organization which the relationship between peers as one of its strategies and realized the slogan “Nothing about us without us”. BWF committed itself to education and training through initiatives such as “Experts through experience” and “Training: a tool for recovery and the fight against stigma”.
“Training: a tool for recovery and the fight against stigma” is a course that began in 2009, it is supported by regional Governments and coordinated by Guadalupe Morales, Director of BWF and Sara Olivarrieta, an expert in sleep and bipolar disorders. This initiative is focused on the early detection of the disease, treatment and the formation of "experts by experience".
This course demonstrated that recovery is possible through psychosanitary treatment, reliable information, training and education for the management of their disease. Someone informed and trained can become an “expert through experience”, this refers to a citizen who can speak freely about their own experiences , how to address certain problems related to the disease, how others react to their condition and encourage personal and social autonomy of mental health sufferers. They are also equipped with the skills to defend their rights as a citizen. The fifth edition of this course will commence this year (October 2014) in Toledo. Each year new disciplines are incorporated into the course to teach past pupils, this is a step towards employment and autonomy of persons with mental health problems.
The users who have participated in the course have declared that it has been a life changing experience for them: “ I feel that the course has been like a gift from heaven, a privilege and a great advantage. Here you can find a wealth of information for yourselves and for others. This course has revived my desire to become active and try new things. I felt dead but was resurrected because I gained a new perspective about my illness, it can also have some positive aspects. My suffering will become useful for others” (Mercedes Martínez López, student of the II course, teacher’s editions II, III, IV).
The University of Laguna de Las Palmas of Gran Canaria is committed to accrediting our course, this is very positive as it gives us more credentials as an academic course.
On the other hand: the development of this course has great expenses, although it can be provided for free for 10-15 students per year, it could increase the number of students and make better use of resources by organizing online courses or through a mixture of online and classroom learning, which we already have in mind.