Global Initiative on Psychiatry-Sofia            

Global Initiative on Psychiatry-Sofia (GIP-Sofia) is among the propellers of mental health reform in Bulgaria. Initially registered in 2000 as a branch of the international organisation Geneva Initiative on Psychiatry – Hilversum (later renamed to Global Initiative on Psychiatry), in December 2004 GIP-Sofia was set up as an independent legal entity – foundation in public interest.

GIP-Sofia’s main area of activity is in the field of mental health and since its official inauguration, the organisation has accumulated a portfolio of more than 50 successful initiatives in Bulgaria and the region of South East Europe. Based on the vision that every person has the right to develop their full potential notwithstanding personal vulnerabilities and life circumstances, GIP-Sofia’s projects are aimed at improving the quality of life of people with mental disability by way of: deinstitutionalisation and community care, respect for human rights; promoting social inclusion and active participation; empowerment; public awareness and acceptance. The organisation is a standing member of a number of governmental and municipal steering committees related to mental health and social services.

Examples of key strategic initiatives:

  • Shifting paradigms in the context of Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2012-to date)

The ratification of the UNCRPD by Bulgaria in 2012 urged the need of consequent changes in national legislation enabling people with mental disabilities to access the supports they require to exercise their legal capacity. GIP-Sofia’s share within the broad programme is concentrated on developing and piloting supported decision making models for people with mental disorders.

  • In the period 2003-2009 GIP-Sofia implemented two projects which were strategic for its work in Bulgaria and had far-reaching consequences, as they brought to the political agenda discussions on the deinstitutionalisation of services for people with mental health problems and triggered policy reforms. The two initiatives resulted in the creation of Bulgaria’s first complex for community-based services (Blagoevgrad) and the first day care and sheltered home services in the capital (Sofia). A Master programme in psychosocial rehabilitation and Psychiatric nursing programme were developed and accredited.
  • Introducing crisis card concept in Bulgarian context (2009-2014)
  • ITHACA (2007 – 2010) – a multinational project where GIP-Sofia was a partner, aimed at identifying and disseminating best practices in protection of human rights, dignity and welfare of residents in health and social care institutions
  • In the frame of 2 projects (2009 –2013) the profession of an expert by experience was officially introduced in Bulgaria’s national register of occupations and the respective state educational standards and training programmes for EEs, peer support, tandems (EE – professional ) were developed and approbated.
  • Supported employment for people with mental disabilities (2013-2015) was a project resulting in the development of methodology and training programmes for employers, job coaches and people with mental illness.
  • Access to justice for children with mental disabilities and Identifying abuse of children with disabilities in institutions are 2 multinational MDAC-led initiatives, implemented in the period 2013-2017, where GIP-Sofia coordinated the activities in Bulgaria: legislation analysis, training of relevant professionals, monitoring.
  • Social entrepreneurship – aimed to raise the employment opportunities for persons from vulnerable groups of population by implementing effective mechanisms for their social and economic integration, comprising motivation and training, subsequent support and interventions in the „environment“ via creating jobs in social enterprises, social marketing and promoting social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility. To date, GIP-Sofia is running a public laundry named Zelena (green), ensuring occupation for no less than 8 persons with mental disabilities at any given moment and is working towards developing new economic units: Tvorilnitsa (arting) creative studio for producing souvenirs and artistic houseware and a social club offering arts and crafts workshops against paymen; developing a website with an online Hopeshop catalogue for the promotion and placement of the social enterprise’s products and services.

For more information please visit the website of the Global Initiative on Psychiatry