Report on travel to Nordic and Baltic mutual support seminar

We ( Jonas Bredford, Stefan Wallerek and Rosemarie Wilhelmsson) arrived by flight from Kastrup to Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport on Thursday, August 24 at 15:10. About an hour later, Gunilla Brändström joined from Umeå. Through a telephone conversation with Åsa Höij, we were informed that she is already at her final destination. We were then picked up by a helpful woman who drove us to a department store where we could buy, among other things, hygiene items such as toothpaste and shampoo, which were confiscated by customs for security reasons. He then drove us to the bus that took us to Kamelia’s holiday home. It turned out to be anything but an ordinary hotel: there was a small wooden house in a very beautiful place in the forest by a small lake, where we had to spend the night. There were various pets around this house such as dogs, cats, turkeys, geese, chickens, snakes (!) and a little goat that was even up on the tables and walking around. The wooden house turned out to be completely occupied by our Finnish and Estonian participants, so we Swedes were directed to a military tent with a stove and metal bunks. Suddenly we were scouts again, which not everyone was quite happy about. The owner of this retreat farm also informed us what was going to happen: – Sorry, something is wrong with our roosters, they start shouting at 4 in the morning… Yes, very true: At 4 a bunch of roosters started crowing to catch up, why there was little sleep so and so… Well it was a fantastic atmosphere and we who love animals thoroughly enjoyed it. However, our female participants decided to spend the next night in a hotel instead, which we completely understand. However, delicious food and interesting discussions with those in the group who knew English were offered. The next day it was time for a seminar in  Vönnu Community Centre, where we were greeted by Annika Pajumaa-Murov, the rursl municipality mayor. This was followed by the speech “Employment opportunities for disabled people”, which was given by Kristel Altosaar from the Estonian Unemployment Fund. We have to remember that all the lectures were held in Estonian and translations were done for us at regular intervals by an outstanding translator, whose name I unfortunately did not catch. It required us to pay very close attention to try to understand everything that was said. However, the general impression from our point of view was that Estonia is a highly developed country, which is not significantly different from Sweden. Kristel left a very dedicated, human and enthusiastic impression, clearly the right person in the right place. Then there was a coffee break where no coffee was served, something had gone wrong in the planning. Instead, we had to sit down and listen to psychiatrist Peeter Lääne, who told us about the latest trends in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. The undersigned asked (given that alcoholism is known to be widespread in the former eastern states) how many of these are alcohol-related, to which he replied that certainly all psychiatric diagnoses can be caused by abuse, but that doesn’t mean they always are. During the following breaks, we were entertained by the blind musician Veronika Söstar, who played the small harp. Next, it was time to make a very impressive overview of Kaido Soom, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, about all the activities they do for people with special needs in the society. The church obviously has a strong position in Estonian society and it does a lot of good for the weaker ones. After lunch, it was time for the participating user organizations to introduce themselves. Among other things, we got acquainted with Estonia’s only fountain house in Tallinn, which has existed for 23 years. Their presentation was very predictable because all fountains are based on the 37 New York directives that must be strictly followed. In the RSMH presentation, we described the history since 1967, where the closure of large mental hospitals and the appointment of a personal ombudsman were significant events. We also explained that the main pillars are peer support, interest policy and education. After a (real) coffee break, a discussion about continued cooperation followed. We are required to have knowledge of how the user’s voice should be heard in society and how they can gain power over their living conditions. They wanted us to enter into a contract obligating us to supply materials to aid them in their efforts. We explained that such a contract cannot be concluded immediately, but that the evaluation of the seminar must take place first. We also explained that the results achieved by RSMH are the fruit of 56 years of struggle and it was not long ago that we were not even welcomed in the corridors of power. That only after the Reinfeldt government, in the so-called PRIO initiative, required municipalities to influence documented users if psychiatry should receive funding, we were suddenly “warmly welcomed everywhere”. Therefore, we advised Estonians that regardless of what one thinks of those in power, one should strive for good relations with them. And don’t waste energy on center shapes and brake pads: don’t talk to the tail when the head is there. After that we finished the seminar and returned to our living quarters for further discussions and social fellowship. Already at 8 o’clock on Saturday morning, it was off to Tallinn by bus and train. We said goodbye to our new Estonian and Finnish colleagues and headed back home to Sweden. All in all, there seem to be good conditions for fruitful cooperation. Estonians are not perfect and neither are we. The important thing is that we recognize it, trust each other and start building something together from there. Once that trust is established, there really shouldn’t be any need for written agreements, we’re all in the same boat.

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