It really is ‘time to change’ for mental health and the arts in Wales

Hi, how’s 2014 going for you so far?

Hopefully you haven’t been too badly affected by the all the horrendous weather we’ve been having.

For Making Minds, the first part of the year has been about early steps and planning on what we’re aiming to achieve this year.

Tomorrow, we take the first real, exploratory step to a potential mental health arts network in South Wales. A group of individuals and representatives of organisations will come together, to see if there’s a need for such a network and, if so, whether it should be established as a co-operative consortium. We know there is already work underway, funded by the Arts Council of Wales, to develop an Arts Health and Wellbeing network in Wales, but we don’t yet know how mental health will feature in that or indeed what that network’s purpose or agenda would be. Usually, whenever you hear the arts and any field of health mentioned in the same breath, people assume you’re working to help improve the health of others through the arts. That’s not always the case. This area of work, and the conversations that go on around it, is much wider and multi-faceted than that. Yes, people’s health may well improve as a result of their engagement with such work, but it’s not necessarily always the main intention of those delivering the work.

creative challengeTomorrow, we’re also having our regular Making Minds management committee meeting. We’ll be discussing some of our latest developments and working out what we’re going to focus on for the rest of the year. This will include our ‘Creative Challenge’ project, that’s been funded by Time to Change Wales. Thanks to New Horizons, we have a location for the collaborative creative sessions that will be run during the project – its offices in Aberdare. We’ve also secured the services of three artists (more to be revealed soon) who are all experienced in mental health and community arts. We have some participants in place, through the New Horizons youth group. We’re now looking for other people (mainly in the 18-25 age bracket), who can attend the ten weekly sessions (starting 12th May) who do not have direct experience of mental ill health, as the project is about social interaction between those with and without such experience, that will help tackle mental health stigma and discrimination. We’re also looking for some people who come from a relevant health background, to get involved as participants. The sessions will feature poetry, storytelling, digital storytelling and wall art (graffiti / mural). There will also be an end of project event in July or August. It’s hoped Creative Challenge will kickstart the delivery of similar projects in other areas, as a regular fixture, over time.

We’ll also be discussing other projects and funding bids that we’ve been approached to get involved in. Yes, we’re being approached to be involved in other people’s work. If you’d told me that six months ago, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have believed you. We’re pleased with the progress that we’re making, but we know that progress can only be maintained by continuing the level of effort that’s already gone into Making Minds. We hope some of you will become volunteers or members of our management committee, to help lighten the load and enable us all to cover more ground. Remember, everyone involved in Making Minds is so as a volunteer, on top of day jobs and other commitments.

We will be talking about the mental health arts magazine that my co-chair Maggy Corkhill is looking to develop. As there are mental health networks and publications and arts networks and publications in Wales, there’s nothing that brings the two together, that we are aware of, and in a way that is helpful to all sorts of people in a number of ways.

Finally, we’ll be starting to sketch out ideas for a ‘mini mental health arts festival’ to potentially take place before the end of 2014. There are so many people and organisations in Wales, producing so much good work and involved in so many exciting activities yet, sometimes, you wouldn’t necessarily know it. We’re very good at doing, less good at telling people about it. Such a festival could help raise awareness of all the work that is going on out there, that brings the worlds of mental health and the arts together, in Wales. Right now, we’re a long way from what is achieved in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland each year, but we can take inspiration from our Celtic cousins to know that it’s possible. This could help bring badly needed funds to the ‘sector’ of mental health arts, at a time when the two separate sectors are facing massive cuts, significant changes and an uncertain future. Innovation and new ways of working often require people to take a leap of faith, so we hope you’ll take that with us. Wales has the talent, the human resource, the venues, the events and the funding sources to make it happen, so why shouldn’t it happen? There’s also space in the calendar for it.

Much of the above will also make it easier to support artists, of all types, who are affected by mental ill health. Again, we’re not trying to ‘fix’ people in that respect, support could simply come from making introductions for people and raising awareness of their work in different ways.

Anyway, that’s enough to be going on with. I’ve got meetings to prepare for!

Thanks for reading.

Mark

Co-Chair, Making Minds

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