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Case story: Man 29 years old

Time before coming to the Culture house

Before I came to the Culture House, I was enrolled at a university of applied sciences, but my studies were stuck and I couldn’t really complete anything. I didn’t have the energy to go to school and spent most of my time alone at home. I saw friends now and then, but they also have their own lives. I was also afraid of burdening my friends with my own problems. My life was lonely, dreary, monotonous. On the other hand, I had time for hobbies, and at least I started my own YouTube channel. But life was overshadowed by a lack of social life.

In addition to loneliness, I had depression and anxiety, and a general bitterness towards the world. The pandemic put further strain on my already overstressed mental health. On the other hand, the realisation that I was living such an isolated life, with little impact from the pandemic, also depressed me. Eventually I went to the student health centre and told them I needed something to do and company. They suggested a Culture house among other activities; it sounded to me like what I needed, so I got in touch and came for a visit. I’ve been involved for just over a year now.

The situation now

Participating in the Culture house activities has given me, in particular, the social company and a certain affirmation of myself and my actions that I have always longed for. Just the other day, people came up to me and praised me so much that I was blushing. I have also received positive feedback and a feeling of being seen. For my part, I try to maintain a nice vibe in the Culture house, so it’s great to be seen and to be able to say it out loud.

Here I have the opportunity to make music, visual art and share my enthusiasm for movies. It has given me back the drive for goals and dreams; the feeling that I have something I can take forward. It’s a big change just to talk about these things out loud. Nowadays I’m constantly trying new things: here at the Culture house I’ve unexpectedly gotten involved in things I never thought I would do, even if it felt like it would be cool. For example, I’ve ended up rapping on a song, and recording it for the studio.

At the moment, though, it’s a pretty stressful time in my life because I’m turning 30 this year, which means that a lot of services for young adults, like NUOTTI coaching, will end for me. I still need support to battle with bureaucracy and make various applications. The kind of ’getting my arse off the bench’, i.e. getting things done better, already having company to do it with. I need to talk to someone about my affairs from time to time.

On the other hand, I’ve learned to see the value in the volunteer work I do at the Culture house and what I do with my own Youtube channel. I would be quite happy with my situation if I could get some money from this. I feel like the world doesn’t appreciate what I do.

I have a few good friends, and I have a little more open relationship with my family now than I did before. For the most part I get on well with people, but I’m afraid I’m a burden on others. Sometimes I can lose my concentration in large crowds, and sometimes I find myself overloaded. The communities I belong to are important to me: a few online communities and a Culture house. I was recently told that I was the ”soul of the Culture house”; that felt good.

On the importance of the Community

For me, being part of a community means not being alone and having my values seen. When I can make a concrete contribution to the community, it gives me something to do and something to live for. The most important thing about peer-to-peer interaction is that there is not a higher authority watching, but that people have similar experiences. The great thing about Culture house is, for example, that you are allowed to be silent in a group or that people understand that there may be problems with time management. Some people are able to show their feelings, even cry, in front of others. That’s important. If there is a clear authority in the community, then they need to be consistent and even-handed in their approach.

It is very important that a community member can trust his or her co-workers: otherwise you cannot create a good and functioning community. At the same time, it is also important to trust participants: for example, we were allowed to keep the Culture house open all by ourselves when the staff were on Christmas break.

For me, inclusiveness means inviting everyone to participate. The Culture house is largely open to everyone for all meetings; of course there are some things only for the peer leaders, but on the other hand, everyone can apply for training if they want to be peer leaders. Anyone can get involved in decorating the common space or outings and events – there are very few any gates that need to be opened before you can act and decide.

Characteristics of a good community

A sense of community is built by being listened to and seeing your impact on the community in a tangible way. This can be the case, for example, when your suggestions are discussed together. And being able to raise issues and being invited to participate in activities. It’s important to have open doors and transparency in what happens in the community. The flow of information is open, not gossip behind your back.

The hallmarks of a good community are a smooth flow of information, openness, transparency, trustworthiness, respect for privacy, a welcoming atmosphere, acceptance, safety, clear rules and confidence that the rules will be followed.

Interaction in the community is made as smooth as possible by having a common code of conduct and by organising meetings to discuss issues together. Clear communication. Personally, I like the fact that the community has social media channels where everyone can participate in communication. It is also important that everyone has the right to draw their own boundaries and that they are respected; everyone takes responsibility for their own speech and behaviour.

A professional working with young people in the community should have compassion, caring, patience, understanding, communication skills and a willingness to listen, kindness, a sense of humour and reliability. It is important that the employee respects people’s privacy. Of course, it is useful to know where to direct (to other services) the young person if necessary. It is also good if the employee has a general curiosity about other people’s interests. It is also good if the employee has a general curiosity about other people’s interests. And that she/he truly likes young people and is interested in their stories.

Mental health stigma can be reduced by taking a humorous approach and daring to laugh at funny things. Create the kind of atmosphere you would want everywhere else to have, and see people as whole, not as diagnoses. However, breaking stigma happens outside the (mental health) community, not inside the community, but hopefully people in the community will find the courage to break stigma outside the community too.

The shortcomings of the digital community compared to the face-to-face community is that when face-to-face contact is missing, so is the warmth. In face-to-face community humanity is easier to recognise and can curb, for example, arguments. And face-to-face encounters give you a tangible sense that you are not alone.  In a digital community, it can be easier to express yourself when you can express yourself in writing and anonymously, and you’re not being watched when you speak. In a digital environment there is also a lack of urgency; when the encounter is not limited by time or place.