Loneliness and social isolation are tendencies that often come along with a diagnosed mental health disorder. Certain mental health patients have a high level of IQ (Intelligence Quotient) but they find it difficult to feel connected to other people. These feelings are frequently accompanied by lacking communication skills for meaningful interaction with others, so these individuals have a central concern about feeling alone, expecting to be rejected, devaluated or discriminated against and thus they feel alienated as a function of an inability to establish or maintain relationships appropriately. Others factors that we usually find in patients with mental disorders are a low sense of achievement, a negative learning emotion, a perception of inadequacy and a deep sense of emptiness without goals. These are the kind of people that we find in mental health hospitals.
This is a specific intervention to re-integrate persons with serious mental illness into community improving their self-esteem, proposing them a goal and reducing their perception of loneliness and social isolation by helping them learn to edit the Wikimedia projects, and become members of the wiki community.
Hospital patients or other people with challenging health disorders and difficulties often have a sense of despair and futility that prevents them from feeling the slightest satisfaction of making a difference in the world. Often these people live on the margin of "normal society", in settings that do not normally allow space for developing social skills and enjoying interaction with others. By introducing these people to the concept that anyone can contribute to the Wikimedia projects and share his/her knowledge, they can acquire a sense of purpose and self-esteem that they so desperately need to overcome their difficulties. Moreover, their participation in the Wikimedia community means that their handicaps are not an impediment to a movement that applauds the diversity and social/gender/etc. equality that they cannot easily find in other settings.
Wikitherapy was the first organized and documented effort to introduce Wikipedia editing as a therapy option. This pilot focused primarily on Wiktionary and Wikiquote, with Wikimedia Commons used in the beginning as an "ice-breaker". The participants had no prior experience in editing the Wikimedia projects; now they are fully aware of the "anyone can edit" mentality and two of them have made editing a part of their routine activities.
Wikitherapy included in "Best Practices" by Wikimedia Amical presentation, Esino Lario, 2016
End slide of my Wikitherapy presentation at Wikimania 2016
Rehabilitation of the mentally ill is a huge challenge for the therapists. In Argentina, we have started a program to re-integrate people with serious mental illnesses into the community by proposing them a goal to help improve their self-esteem and reduce their feeling of loneliness and social isolation by learning how to edit Wikiquote. The main goal of this Wikiproject was to encourage patients at the hospital to create and increase the number of articles on Wikiquote in Spanish by enabling them to improve the quality of the content of famous phrases. The therapist designs several sessions for stimulating the intellect and increasing the social skills of the patients. The participants were inpatients of a mental hospital in Argentina. Those patients who have been hospitalized or who are undergoing some type of outpatient treatment had here a space of assistance for editing and emotional contention.
They were given small, manageable tasks on Wikiquote, after giving them individualized training on writing skills and grammar. They were then asked to add content to Wikiquote. During the course, the patients developed digital literacy, writing, research skills and they learned 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 increased their self-esteem or communication skills. The participants gave positive feedback about the therapy and their mental health improved after the Wikiquote sessions.