The Role center is an activity center for individuals that have lost important roles for various reasons. The main purpose of the center is to gain or find valuable roles again by staying active. The purpose is also to fight stigma and isolation, to recover at ones own pace and choice, make friends, be a part of a group, to learn new things, to practice strengths, to promote mental health and well being. It offers peer support, helps individuals to influence their environment and become part of the society.
The center opened as a rehabilitation center in 2007. It is sponsored by the government, the welfare ministry, a work union, the social security fund, and Reykjavík city. After the financial cries in Iceland in October 2008 the center opened its doors for those who had lost their jobs.
The staff consists of occupational therapists and part time employees with various backgrounds and users experience. The center is open every day from mon. – fri. from 8:30 to 16:00. Occasionally there are special courses in the evening or during weekends.
Those you attend the center are mostly individuals in recovery who are willing to take steps to join the labourmarket, to attend school or to find new meaningful roles in their lives. Everyone is welcome to the center. People decide themselves what they do within Hlutverkasetur. The majorities of individuals that come to the center have a history of mental health problems. Others that attend have lost their jobs during the financial crises and want to stay active or help others.
Some come, simply to drink a cup of coffee and to meet other people. Some come to attend a wide range of seminars and workshops, like arts and crafts, psychodrama, drawing, yoga, relaxation, walking groups, clay, sing a long, drum circle, knitting, sawing, doing their own things etc. Most of the courses are open, so people can take part when they are up to it. People can get support from staff if they wish both counseling and practice help at the center of in their own environment.
Special projects in the center are e.g. “User Interviewing User”. This is a qualitative approach to evaluate mental health services based on service-user experiences, in a dialogue-based form. Service-users with own experience are trained to conduct focus-group interviews with specific service users about their experiences and opinions of services.
Other projects are workshops held in different parts of Iceland in collaboration with the Red cross around empowerment issues.
About the founder
Elín Ebba Ásmundsdóttir is an occupational therapist, a director, an associate professor and a popular lecturer. She is a spokesman for the ideology that every human have something to contribute to society, and her special area has been the mental health field. She is enthusiastic and devoted to her work, constantly reminding the public, user organizations and the politicians that people struggling with mental health problems have a lot of resources. Users of the mental health system are her co-researchers. Through her company, they get opportunities to contribute with their ideas and visions.
Elín Ebba has worked mostly in institutions supported by the government. However she has committed most of her vacant time to push forward ideologies she believes in. She has worked as an individual though her lectures and workshops, as partner in some projects and collaborated in various projects. She has focused her energy on combating negative public perceptions towards individuals with mental illness and campaigned for more varied treatment services. She has fostered, through direct support and guidance, some of the most innovative projects in the Icelandic mental health field, which have gained public attention and for some of them she has earned notable praise and awards. E.g. Geðrækt, the Icelandic mental health promotion project. “The 10 mental health commandments” and “The mental aid box” is based on her ideas, which nearly every Icelander is familiar with and has gained public acceptance regarding mental heath promotion. She mentored and gave ideological support in the founding of “Hugarafl” a prominent Icelandic mental health users group. She started a project called “User Interviewing User” which gives work opportunities for individuals in recovery. It is a dialogue-based qualitative research approach to evaluate mental health services based on service-user experiences. Her newest project is Hlutverkasetur a rehabilitation and activity centre set up to fight stigma and isolation with the main purpose of gaining or finding valuable roles again by staying active. Through her recovery research and involvement in educating the public, she has had great influence on shifting the focus from the “disease” to the user’s strength, experience, knowledge and the possibility of recovery. She has written numerous newspaper articles, peer reviewed articles, been interviewed in the media, newspapers, television, radio shows and has given speeches at various venues, workshops and presentations to a variety of groups all over Iceland. Trough her ideology, presence, energy and humour she can relate to everyone. She has the gift to share, educate and influence the public in what matters in simple words, sharing her own experience as a human being and as a health specialist.