An intervention to re-integrate persons with serious mental illness into the community using Wikimedia’s platforms.

This is a specific intervention to re-integrate persons with serious mental illness into community proposing them a goal, improving their self-esteem and reducing their perception of loneliness and social isolation by learning how to edit Wikiquote. Patients who previously used only social networks although they did not contact anyone feel proud to see their articles published in Wikiquote. The workshop benefits the intellectual and human development of one of the most vulnerable groups of our society, as these psychiatric patients, instead of being passive users of the network, create content and act as active subjects.

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As a highly experienced and licensed clinical psychologist working with mental health patients, I began this project because I wanted to help patients, promoting, among them, gains in areas such as perception of loneliness and sense of emptiness. As a long term wikipedian and an administrator in Wikiquote, I wanted to recruit beginners to encourage them to create articles in Wikiquote in Spanish, because we have only a few editors working there. Mina  gave me the idea at Wikimania, in Esino Lario, when she showed her work with Wikitherapy.

I thought in a specific intervention to re-integrate persons with serious mental illness into community proposing them a goal, improving their self-esteem and reducing their perception of loneliness and social isolation by learning how to edit Wikiquote. The venue was at the Hospital Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which provided a laboratory room with desktops computers and free wifi access.

The staff at the hospital knew Wikipedia as readers but they did not know that anyone can edit and they knew nothing about Wikiquote or Wikimedia Foundation.
Patients said that they browsed the web to listen music or to visit social network but they had never added content or information. They said: I do not know where I can get information”, I do not know what I could publish” or “I cannot do it”.

Work was not easy. I had to create small and manageable tasks every class. The teaching was very personalized, much more than with a “healthy” person. The time was mainly used to explain basics of editing, formatting, and how to add citations.
For example, for one patient, punctuation did not exist; he wrote as he spoke, all together in a continuous stream. Details, like learning to use a quotation mark, were very complicated for him. I had to work to help him to understand the beginning and the endpoint in sentences.

During the course the patients develop digital literacy, writing, research skills and they learn to write with others, to accept revisions of their work and to interact with other community members. Patients developed a wide range of skills and abilities that help them gain confidence by feeling that they make a meaningful contribution to our society. It also promote gains in areas such as self-esteem or communication skills.

Patients who previously used only social networks although they did not contact anyone, now feel proud to see their articles published in Wikiquote. The workshop benefits the intellectual and human development of one of the most vulnerable groups of our society, as these psychiatric patients, instead of being passive users of the network, create content for the same and begin to act as active subjects.

Patients were generally grateful to have participated in the experience. One patient found it useful because the negative thoughts, which told him that he would not be able to do anything, disappeared when he managed to begin to edit. One female patient spent the whole week searching for famous phrases on the web to bring them to the workshop. “Before I was sleeping all day, she said, but now I’m entertaining looking for phrases and annotating them”. She always had published phrases and quotes to FB but no one read them or answered her, so she was happy to upload them to Wikiquote: “I’ve always thought that I was writing to the air but now all the phrases that I’ve collected will serve me for something”.

One thing that gave me great satisfaction was that a Spanish institution that works with Cognitive Accessibility in Full Inclusion, with people with intellectual disabilities, contacted me because they want to try to replicate the experience in Spain. I believe that this is a social entrepreneurship that could be replicated in a global way.

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