Creatively Minded and Heritage
How can heritage and creativity support mental health? This report commissioned by the Baring Foundation and produced by the Restoration Trust showcases work from 18 heritage and arts organisations using a wealth of heritage assets, and the creativity of artists, to improve mental health and community connections.
Heritage brings such significant added value for creativity and mental health programmes that it should be a core resource for people looking for mental health treatments, and for heritage, creativity and mental health
professionals developing cross-sectoral social prescribing programmes.
The wellbeing agenda is rapidly maturing as demand for mental health services overwhelms supply and all kinds of community assets, including heritage, are called into play. The interplay of heritage and creativity, where imagination is rooted in knowledge, has particular power for mental health and should be fore-fronted in co-produced project design. Virtual experiences can be as potent as face-to-face ones.
The case for museums and wellbeing is already made, so this report focusses on creative engagement with natural and historic environments, archaeology and archives, which are less represented in the literature.
The 18 case studies by no means tell the whole story of creatively minded heritage and mental health projects in the UK, but they are examples of excellent practice across multiple art forms, heritage assets, organisational structures and health settings. They show that all heritage can be used creatively to improve people’s mental health and community connections nationwide.
People living with mental health challenges, funders, strategists, professionals, artists, service providers, social prescribers and academics can build on what has already been done to overcome barriers that restrict access to therapeutic engagement with heritage and creativity. Then everything will change for the better.
Download the report (PDF)
Call to action
Everyone can do things differently
People living with mental health challenges
Assert your right to use heritage and creative assets as an integral part of your mental health care plan. Call out discrimination, and own your story.
If you have not already done so, review your assets of places, people, collections and information and ask yourself, how could you use them to deliver a brilliant mental health and creativity project? Upskill staff and volunteers with mental health training and supervision.
Mental health and social prescribers
Ask people if they are interested in heritage and creativity and follow their lead. Put heritage and creativity on your radar and employ Heritage and Creativity Link Workers. Pay providers.
Continue the progress in collaboration and research that meets cross-sectoral needs. Consider supporting a new open access Heritage and Health journal.
Funders and national organisations
Continue to reflect on options to fund flexibly, including long term and core support. Leverage best practice and stimulate it sector-wide. Urge government and your peers to see heritage as a mental health asset, and call out bad practice and exclusion.
Heritage, creativity and mental health providers
Keep on keeping on. Protect your value, publish research, share experiences, befriend your colleagues, and look after yourself.