Icelandic celebrity tells his story at Open Home of the Belarus Red Cross

Published: 19 November 2014 16:55 CET

By Andreea Anca, IFRC


If success in life was a marathon - as one of the “10 commandments” of mental health suggests - the Icelandic celebrity Hogni Egilsson would be an accomplished long-distance runner. The musician seems to particularly obey the part of the dictate which says `Do not give up´ (The 8th Commandment of Mental Health says `Do Not Give Up; success in life is a marathon.´)


Following the request of the Icelandic Red Cross the lead singer of Gus Gus spent several hours at the Open Home in Minsk prior to the band`s concert in the Belarusian capital earlier this month.


Open Home takes four rooms in a government-owned office building downtown and it is a place where people with mental illnesses find the support they need to lead more productive and autonomous lifestyles. The establishment is modelled on the open centres originally founded by the Icelandic Red Cross in Iceland. The centre celebrated its one year anniversary in October this year.

Believe in Yourself


The Icelandic artist has a history of bipolar disorder and was able to engage with the Open Home users at a personal level. A year ago, after being hospitalized several times he stopped taking his medication and decided to take control of his condition.


He spent an intense six months looking after his well-being by leading a healthy lifestyle, going swimming, meditating, taking saunas and focusing on his music.


The singer openly shared his experience of recovery with an audience of twelve Home guests and a handful of staff and volunteers from the Belarus Red Cross.


“You have to believe in yourself, understand that your troubles and your history are an obstacle you are meant to overcome,” said Egilsson. “Your troubles help you become a more profound and mindful person” he added.


“You speak about your illness openly and in simple terms and this is unusual for us,” one visitor addressed the artist visibly impressed by Egilsson’s determination to live a fulfilling life despite his condition. “We have accepted that we should hide everything that is connected to our mental disease. Hide everything, sit at home and do nothing”.


The singer of “love, life and loss” also played a few songs for his small audience. The gesture encouraged another visitor to reveal his musical talent who took the guitar and played a beautiful soulful tune, which in turn impressed the Icelandic artist.


“If Hogni is not ashamed to speak about his illness, I shouldn’t be either. He has noticed my talent, maybe I will be able to do something with it just like him,” the man said.


Open Home was established by the Belarus Red Cross in partnership with the Icelandic Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). It helps its twenty-five regular visitors find a hobby by providing drawing, modelling, design, beading, sewing, embroidery classes, offering a space where people have the option to comfortably socialize in an understanding environment.


“Open Home is a key to come out of isolation”, said Hermann Ottósson, Secretary General of the Icelandic Red Cross, during his visit to Minsk.


Ottósson talked in his speech about the universal tendency to isolate people with mental health issues and emphasized the importance of the psychological support the Red Cross staff and volunteers provide those who visit the Home, and not least the invaluable support they provide one another.



The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 190 member National Societies . As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright