Mental health issues are still a taboo in Polish society, preventing many from seeking help or being open about their condition in fear of being stigmatized. Cleo Ćwiek, a model, entrepreneur and Humanity in Action Fellow of the 2021 Warsaw Fellowship/Academy of Human Rights, knows a thing about having to come to terms with bipolar disorder and ASD diagnoses as well as navigating the broken psychiatric healthcare system. However, this did not stop her from getting a BA in Psychology, starting her own non-governmental organization “Można Zwariować” (which loosely translates to It’s OK to Go Crazy/ One Can Go Crazy) and running a successful podcast under the same name with a trained psychologist, Ania Cyklińska aka @psycho_edu. The diagnosis did not define Cleo, if anything it helped her get out of comfort zone, find her voice and pursue projects without questioning her capability. Today Cleo uses her platform on social media to raise awareness and change people’s attitudes towards mental health, to embrace the disorderly and celebrate the difference.
If you’re feeling sad and hopeless and this sensation is not going away, just go see a psychiatrist, easy! Or should be easy, but isn’t… For one, because getting an appointment at a public psychiatrist’s office is almost impossible, and for two, because in many environments the stigma around mental health is still very real. It is one of the most important yet least respected parts of people’s overall health. Untreated depression can be a deadly disease, a shadowed pandemic that isn’t addressed enough.
However Cleo aims to put a different spin on mental health. Her idea for the Action Project is a social campaign that is joyful and fun, in odds with what we are used to seeing: gloomy, dark and “depressing” itself. She wants to show that mental health disorders can be treated like any other health issue.
The key message is: “with the right kind of help, you can be bipolar and still lead a great life.”
Through her organization “Można Zwariować”, she has gathered a team of psychologists and media specialists, some of whom she met through modeling work, bridging different worlds together. She also got a media house to partner pro bono with her on the video commercial. They hope to release the social campaign at the beginning of 2022, accompanied by educational live-streams on Instagram and community meetups.
“Można Zwariować” has also a private Facebook group, a safe community for people who want to talk about mental health, who themselves often experience stigma and shame. Cleo wants to encourage people to build support networks within their local communities, in particular targeting young adults ages 17-34.
Cleo has also been actively participating in public events like music, art, movie festivals (most recently at a panel discussion during Millenium Docs Against Gravity), where she speaks of her own experience and advocates for mental health. On October 10, the international mental health day, during a panel talk at the Scopes by Porsche arts & culture festival, she presented a PRISMA booklet – a mental health first aid protocol
More psycho-educational materials to come, stay tuned!