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A Visit to Pristina, Kosovo for Mental Health Awareness Week

Pristina

Getting Real Exposure in Pristina

At the invitation of The Center for Information & Social Improvement (QIPS), I gave a talk in Pristina this past Monday. QIPS is a Kosovo-based NGO working to improve the well-being of people in need and raising awareness for problems hidden by stigma. To be honest, this is what brings me the most joy while running The Artidote. Having the opportunity to be physically present in communities across the world to bring mental health awareness feels real. Managing the project behind the screen is fun, but having real interactions with real people has no substitute.

This talk was the kick off to the Mental Health Awareness Week organized by QIPS. The theme this year was Art Therapy. What made this talk particularly special for me was that translator devices were used. Headphones were used to translate English to Albanian and vice versa. This allowed me to share my journey at The Artidote with every one of the 250 people present. They also gave me the opportunity to understand the panel discussion that followed my talk. It was an insightful conversation between the director of The Mental Health Center in Pristina, a psychologist professor at the University of Pristina and the director of the National Autism Association of Kosovo.

Complex But Necessary Conversations

To me, it is a privilege and pleasure getting to learn from mental health professionals about the challenges in their particular community. They spoke about the limited access to mental health services, stigmas that need to be dissolved, government policies that need drastic improvement, collective trauma after war, our personal role in prioritizing our mental wellbeing and how we may be of support to others around us. These are all hard but necessary conversations to have. It’s important to raise awareness and help shift the stigmas around mental illnesses. More importantly, these convos expose the real challenge of securing adequate support for our mental well-being. Whether we suffer from a mental illness or not, our collective mental well-being is something that we should all care about. After all, we’re all in this together.

Growing Together With People

Half of the audience were Artidotees. This is something special for me. It’s such a joy getting to meet the community face to face. It shows me the real impact of this platform, an impact that goes beyond the screen and way beyond just quotes and art. It also strengthens my sense of responsibility. I’m grateful to see The Artidote growing into something that more and more resembles my dreams.

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