Is there such a thing as a mental health arts sector? Does it matter?

Someone said to me recently, that if Making Minds was to become a South Wales network or umbrella organisation for those involved and interested in art as it relates to mental health, doesn’t there need to be a sector for it to represent?

You could argue that there isn’t such a sector and that there may not be a need for a stand-alone sector. Everyone that I know that has anything to do with mental health arts come from a wide range of backgrounds, are involved in all sorts of ways and for all sorts of reasons.

The work of Making Minds, for instance, will be as prescriptive as we want to make it. The current set of aims, or strands of work that it could go on to deliver, are quite different in their own way. A lot of it comes down to perception. The majority of people that I’ve spoken to about Making Minds automatically think it’s about art making people better. That is, in part, an aim or knock-on effect but it is by no means the be all and end all. People attending creative workshops, to improve mental health and wellbeing, or at least maintain healthy levels, is a fairly recognised, if not widely used, way of working. What is less recognised is the simple endeavour of people creating for its own end. If it gives someone a purpose, structure, pleasure, new learning experiences, increased social interaction, a sense of achievement, a sense of community, or even helps them to make money, so be it – they’re all good reasons to have an artistic or creative interest.

Making Minds will hopefully be as much about the events it helps to organise, that raise awareness of mental health and tackle the stigma and discrimination that surround mental illness, as it is about the pursuit of art itself. We also want to work with artists and creative entrepreneurs, who may not necessarily see themselves as artists, that are affected by mental ill health. Support could come from a mixture of mental health organisations, business support organisations and help to network in a particular geographical area or a community of interest – it could even be as simple as introducing someone to a like-minded person.

Through all of this, though, it is the artists, the creative types, their approaches, their work and their theories that will be put centre stage. This is not about being an arts organisation with a side interest in mental health, or vice versa, it is about the convergence of the two issues and the multitude of ways in which that can be illustrated and conveyed to all sorts of audiences.

As is often the case in the Third Sector, you move according to the needs of funders whether you like it or not. How you make yourself relevant to different agendas is absolutely critical. Making Minds could complement the work of organisations and strategies in mental health, disability, the arts, private businesses, community development and those that are helping to tackle poverty. It will also have its own voice, showing why the arts, creativity and mental health have a symbiotic relationship and why they are so crucial to each other.

The first Making Minds volunteers meeting is coming up on April 18th and its set to have a good turnout. People have asked what being a volunteer will entail. Well, it’s whatever you want to make it. There are certain tasks that need doing if we’re to get Making Minds properly up and running and delivering on its aims, but we’re equally looking for people to bring their own ideas, creativity and skills and go on a great journey that will keep us all motivated, enthused and learning. That can be infectious and oh so productive.

Have a good weekend.


3 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as a mental health arts sector? Does it matter?

  1. Mental health is important for everyone. It’s not necessary, may even be detrimental, to categorise it. We should not put mental health, or mental ill health, in a box as though it is a separate issue from each of us living fulfilled lives. It’s part of who we are. People who suffer from mental health issues are not a ‘sector’. They are just people…

  2. Hi Mark
    I have recieved your informayion through a link from Magie Corkhill. Maggie visits our shop Craft of Hearts and durng a visit we discovered this common interest.
    Craft of Hearts is a social enterprise, developed by myself in order to address many needs in the local and wider community. One of those needs is therapy through craft. We are a craft shop – selling craft equipment and materials but also offering crafting workshops to all members of the community. As a long term crafter and someobe who has been affected by emotional health issues i have benefitted and see the benefits of craft for those eith mental hwalth issues regularly. We would like to be involved in this ‘movement’ and help to bribg more oppirtunities to those who wish to benefit from such activities.

    • Hi Jo, it sounds as if we need to meet up. If not beforehand, would you like to attend the next Making Minds meeting? If you’re comfortable talking about the work of Craft of Hearts, that too would be great.

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