The pandemic of COVID-19 had a significant impact on the mental health of the European population.
Social restrictions, a sense of uncertainty for the future and the spread of terrifying news have affected youth, increasing their level of anxiety, stress and depression. In particular, youth living with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other mental health disorders experienced a greater increase of anxiety because of an abrupt change in their daily routine, the difficulty of access to therapy and special education services. In most cases, parents have become their only caregivers.
The project StoryLiving – Enabling youth with developmental disabilities & mental health disorders to share their COVID-19 experiences through digital storytelling– co-founded by the European Commission through Erasmus + – KA2: Strategic Partnership for Youth Education- aims at overcoming the challenges that youth with developmental disabilities & mental health disorders faced during the pandemic through the use of digital storytelling.
StoryLiving supports storytelling as a method for overcoming and process emotions, fears, traumas and isolation and for sustaining the healing process of youth and their families.
The ultimate goal of StoryLiving, that is the mental wellbeing of youth with developmental disabilities & mental health disorders, contributes to the achievement of the 11 European youth goals (2019-2027), in particular of goal #5 Mental Health and Wellbeing.
StoryLiving objectives are:
To help youth with ASD/ mental health disorders cope with the pandemic;
To support youth trainers, educators and social workers and increase their capacity to use storytelling in their work;
To promote social inclusion of youth with ASD/ mental health disorders through storytelling;
To raise awareness about the special issues that people with ASD / mental health disorders face during the pandemic.
The consortium conducted a bibliographic and on-the-field research involving educators, social workers, and youth workers working with youth living with ASD and other mental health disorders to identify good practices in the use of digital storytelling and other practices of inclusion adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research at the beginning of the project helped in developing guidelines and practical strategies for institutions and organisations working with youth living with ASD and other mental health disorders to support them in adopting digital storytelling as a communication and healing tool.
The guideline and practical strategies constituted the content of a training course developed for the educators, social workers, and youth workers, that was piloted with at least 20 professionals per country. Moreover, the trained professionals involved at least 2 young people living with ASD and other mental health disorders and they collected their stories through the learned methodology. An online learning and hosting platform was developed using a Learning Management System (LMS) that included the training modules and the collected stories, and will allow users to upload their own digital stories in the future. In the end, all partners developed a recommendation paper at a national and European level to promote the use of storytelling as a healing and communication process.
Youth living with ASD, other developmental disabilities,
and mental health disorders.
Educators, social workers, youth workers working with youth living with ASD, other developmental disabilities, and mental health disorders