National Organization of Persons with Mental Disorders and Their Friends



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Club 13 &Co. starts counting its' second decade of existence

March 24th, 2003, Club 13 &Co. celebrated its 10th anniversary. Although our organisation is not big, uniting just about 70 members, but thanks to our activities we are among the best ones in Lithuania.

Let's remember our history.

The Club has started its' activities at the 13th Male ward of the Republican Vilnius Psychiatric hospital (RVPH). The patients, just discharged and being hospitalised again and again, have driven us into desperation. They have stopped using medicines at home, no one has taken care of them, and they have done their best in order to return to their safe environment. They even have not had to do their best. Those years still there were neither patient funds, nor quotas. This phenomenon of "revolving doors" was described in literature long ago. We have thought of how to solve a problem of not being hospitalised as soon. The incitement to found a club has been given in a training seminar in Poland, in Krakow Psychiatrist Clinics. The former patient clubs have used to be at every department in that hospital. Patients used to meet in the hospital's patients cafe every week, and the psychologist or a trainee used to take care of them. I visited all clubs operating there those times. Most visitors were female; they used to drink coffee, smoked every moment and used to tell around stories from their hard life. I was the stranger who was interested in their problems, and so became popular among them. I remember I have asked members of the clubs if they have not been depressed by those visits in mental hospital. And I have been explained by one patient that a fact of being hospitalised in a psychiatric clinic is a very disgusting remembrance, giving much pain, but due to lots of kind and caring people, met among those walls, patients willingly attend club meetings in the hospital. I have relaxed once and for all, because the situation these years (and, to tell the truth, today as well) has given no possibilities to get premises outside the hospital.

The Club was founded in 3 months after the training. We called some patients recently discharged from the hospital, and invited some being in the ward. I remember how they were surprised. Some of them told they should come in order not to cause any problems later, though they didn't have any idea why. A wife of one patient was querying with suspicion what her husband was needed for. 10 former ward's patients (one - together with his father) came to the first meeting, two more of those being treated in the ward were invited, three doctors, two nurses, and two doctors in training, now famous children psychiatrists, came. We met in the cafe of hospital staff. Up to now 7 of those pioneer members are attending the Club's meetings, and, unfortunately, three more - two patients and a doctor - are dead.

Our discussions on the Club's name were long-lasting. We chose "13 &Co.", a name invented by both Oleg and Aleksey, meaning to define the place and the company meeting. Although both authors of the name are now very rare Club's visitors, it seems the name has approved our hopes. First of all, it is such the only one, and, the second, it is international. Titles of the other Lithuanian organizations show our colleagues are short of imagination.

It would be necessary to remember that our colleagues professionals (some of them even till now) had misunderstood what that additional trouble was necessary for, if it was not enough to treat patients, to record case-histories, and so on. And the most important - what for this extra work with no financial remuneration was. Sometimes I cannot understand myself either.

Recently such organisations have started being established at mental health centres. As it was with ours, professionals founded them. However there are clubs established by former patients, as well. True, there are 10 clubs in Lithuania, no more. Psychiatric institutions feel lack of them.

The Club 13 &Co. is the only organisation in Lithuania with a republican status. That's why we have been registered in the Ministry of Justice, not in Vilnius municipality. The Club was registered on the 5th of February 1997. To tell the truth, the main reason to register our organisation was to enable ourselves to apply for grants to different state funds. During 6 years it is not so much support we have got from those funds.

We hope to be a republican organisation not only for the reason of registration place, but also for our activities. The remaining word in our title, "the club" probably de-emphasises our status, although we are unwilling to change it. Sometimes people inquire us if the club is the place for gym or dancing. We usually answer that it is possible of course to do almost everything, but we wish to stress that it is not sporting activities we are taking care of. We highlight to be not just a club, but a republican organization, taking care of persons with mental disorders. That's why we have added to our name - a Republican organisation of persons with mental disorders and their friends. In order to equal those organisations which own a word "Lithuanian" in their titles.

What are the most important our achievements? I think we can deservedly be proud of doing lots of things first in Lithuania. When these activities are being continued by the other organisations it is most often forgotten who has been the initiator of all of those.

We have turned attention to the art of mental patients.

Only a month before a foundation of the Club it was established an art therapy studio in the psychiatric department. Since 1993 we have organized art exhibitions successfully. It was organised the first exhibition in Lithuania of persons with mental disorders, "The Talks of the Souls" in 1995, in the Technical Library. It has been more than 30 exhibitions in Lithuania and abroad. Some of the artists, our pride (Sergejus, Gintautas, Aleksandras), "were born" in our Club, and now no-one art exhibition, no-one publication can manage without their works. In 1998 we were the first in Lithuania, who published a calendar of mental patients drawings, named "Visions". In 2002 it was published another one, "Reflections", and in 2003 -"Signs". Lots of paintings of our patients were published on the cover pages of medical publications. The first poetry collection "Windmills" (1999) is also a publication of "Club 13 &Co.".

We have been the first to publish a regular newspaper.

We are proud of our newspaper "The Club 13 &Co. News", which has been published since 1998. The amount of pages has grown up from 8 to 36 and now can be deservedly called a magazine. It is the only regular publication of an organisation of people suffering from mental disorders in Lithuania. We are happy to hear many of our readers from the whole Lithuania to call it "our newspaper". Such publication gives patients a possibility to discuss on their problems, to spread information about mental disorders, medicines, rehabilitation forms, related organisations in Lithuania and abroad, to publish their creative works, to improve mental patient's image in the society.

We have been the first to start communicating with similar organisations abroad and to join the international mental patients movement.

In 1994 due to the assistance of our Polish colleagues we entered into relations with Hamlet Trust, a charity organisation from London. We told the Englishmen about similar organisations operating in Lithuania. Although until now we have not received any grant still since 1996 one or two of the members of our Club have participated in conferences (in Estonia, Romania, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia), run by Hamlet Trust. In 1998 nine of us visited Psychiatric Hospital in Suwalki, Poland. We entered into relations with the community of families of mental patients, "Nadzieja" ("Hope"). We have lots of friends in Poland (we take part in common camps, seminars, art "plenairs", exhibitions). In 2000 we took part in the 6th European conference of Club houses in Rendsburg, Germany. Finally, in 2001 we joined GAMIAN-Europe, participated in conferences in Malta and Slovenia. In 2002 we became the certified member of GAMIAN-Europe. This organisation fosters the co-operation between mental health users and professionals in different ways, and it does not care at all our Club is led by a professional.

But in spite of all the most important thing is that we had tried and done our best our members to feel personalities, despite of how many times they would have been hospitalised, what kind of mental disorder they would have suffered from and what kind of medicine they would have used. We always look for the best and the worthiest of that every person has got. We tell our members: "You can", and this is what helps them to forget about their disease, to feel self confident and to be equal among equals.

Danguole Survilaite
Chairman of “Club 13&Co.” ,
Vilnius, Lithuania



Contacts: Parko 15, LT-11205, Vilnius, Lithuania, tel.:(+370)-5-267-06-13, fax: (+370)-5-267-15-03. Account:LT347300010002464311, bank: AB "Hansabankas" Rotuses skyrius, kodas 73000