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The project “Mental Health and Wellbeing in Multicultural Finland (MIOS)” was conducted by MIELI Mental Health Finland with the support of European Social Fund in 2018-2020. The purpose of the project was to raise awareness on mental health and strengthen migrants’ mental wellbeing.

The MIOS project focused on three areas; on developing a peer group model for migrants, on developing a program to support mental health self-care and on rooting best practices as well as promoting intercultural activities through member organisations.

Peer groups “TOIVO” created awareness and mental health literacy

TOIVO peer group model was developed with the thought of “act-feel-apprehend”, where members of the group would decide on something to do together, upon which they’d have a discussion on the emotions the act evoked in them.  The idea was for participants to come to realize on their own small changes they can adapt in their daily lives that would affect their mental health positively; like paying attention to their eating and sleeping habits. Groups met 8 times and, in each meeting, they focused on one of the topics: healthy food, physical exercise, sleep, relationships, stress, emotions, etc.

Through out the project there were in total 50 groups conducted to which around 500 people participated. Each group was facilitated in tandem by our trained volunteers. The project trained 40 volunteers in total who were of different backgrounds themselves. Feedback shows not only the participants but also the facilitators gained a lot from the group work that within safe space established a community feeling. Having widened their network, the participants also reported the group work strengthened their feeling of belonging. Due to corona restrictions some of the groups were conducted online during the last phase of the project, which allowed migrants from different cities to participate in sessions.

OmaMieli web pages and the Power Journal challenge you to promote your mental health

The mental health self-care program OmaMieli is composed of webpage and a Power Journal. Both are found in Finnish, English and Arabic. The webpage challenges and inspires the user to make small changes in their daily lives through videos, basic information on mental health matters, questions to think and tips for a healthier life style. Power Journal accompanies the same idea additionally offering inspiring quotes from the globe, a mood time-table and a journal for the user him/herself to keep over a month. Both the webpage and the journal are perfect tools, also, for group facilitators to use as a model and/or to measure improvement of mental wellbeing of their participants.

Dissemination of MIOS project outcomes

During the last phase of the project there was special attention given to spread the best practices and root intercultural activities across MIELI’s member organisations around Finland. A guide to help acknowledge diverse needs of communities, reaching out to migrant communities and working together with diverse groups of people was put together as part of this phase and shared among 55 member organisations.

The COVID-19 pandemic shaped the MIOS Project

Mental health became a topic of interest by more people during coronavirus pandemic and the interest for MIOS project activities surpassed our expectations. We conducted an online survey on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental wellbeing of migrants in spring 2020 and based on the 1170 answers we got from all around Finland, not only we started organizing the TOIVO groups online but also held online info and discussion sessions for migrants and for migrant organizations providing tools to manage stress, frustration, bad feelings and raising awareness.

MIELI will continue to promote mental health of migrants in Finland

MIOS project brought to light, once again, that participation is an asset for mental health and mental health for healthy integration. There are 444 000 foreigners living in Finland yet services remain limited for non-native speakers. Even though MIOS has come to an end in MIELI Mental Health Finland we will continue to develop our and our member organisations’ services for better accessibility for all.

All MIOS models and tools, including TOIVO-groups, OmaMieli program and support guidebook for working with diverse communities can be used and adapted free of charge. For further information and/or help feel free to contact.

Melis Arı-Gürhanlı

Civic Action, planning officer