Arts, Culture and our Mental Health

This week (13–19 May 2019) marks Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. As a city, we understand the powerful contribution that arts and culture have on our mental health. Here at Culture Liverpool, we will be discussing connections between the arts and wellbeing, via blogs, news articles and case studies.

Significant evidence shows the powerful contribution the arts can make to health and wellbeing. An inquiry report from The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing revealed that art forms help keep us well, aid recovery and support longer lives better lived. It revealed that an arts-on-prescription project saw a 37% drop in GP consultations and 27% reduction in hospital admissions — representing a saving of £216 per patient.

Last week at the BBC’s Get Creative Festival, it was revealed that being creative can help avoid stress, free up mind space, and improve self-development and self-esteem. Almost 50,000 people took part in the BBC Arts Great British Creativity Test, which found:

  • 76% used creative activities to help relieve stress and anxiety
  • 69% used creative activities to build up self-esteem and inner strength
  • 53% used creative activities to contemplate, clear headspace and reflect

Liverpool invests highly in its world class cultural programme and is recognised as an exemplar of a cultural city. From major events, through to intimate local activities and investments into grassroot organisations, the city realises the importance of engaging communities in the arts.

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In 2018, Lost Castles was the first cultural project involving all six boroughs in Liverpool City Region. Hundreds of volunteers worked alongside artist Olivier Grossetête — renowned for recreating extraordinary structures out of cardboard — to produce some lost castles from the city region in the places they once stood. In Liverpool City Centre, the structure was assembled by people from all walks of life, backgrounds and ages; artists, CEOs, nurses, students, children and their grandparents. It uplifted the local community as well as visitors to Liverpool, and families flocked to enjoy the artistic programme and take photos with Liverpool Castle across the weekend.

“The creative impulse is fundamental to the experience of being human … The act of creation, and our appreciation of it, provides an individual experience that can have positive effects on our mental health and wellbeing.” — Creative Health, APPGAHW.

The Institute of Cultural Capital is a strategic collaboration between the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, which works alongside researchers, academics and consultants to examine cultural policy. Looking closely to understand cultural value at a community level, it has evaluated the impact of arts on health and wellbeing across Liverpool City Region. The team work closely in communities across the North West to identify where cultural assets exist and what social value is generated by them. You can read their findings here.

Liverpool’s Mind Map helps people navigate through mental health journeys via magazine content. Breaking down the stigma around mental illness through the familiarity of artists, musicians and sport stars. See Everton Football Club’s Leighton Baines discuss mental health in football. Speaking to Art in Liverpool for it’s launch in 2018, Founder Phil Bridges said:

“I have spent the past year developing The Mind Map with clinical input from NHS Liverpool CCG and Mersey Care, plus Liverpool John Moores University and young people at Merseyside Youth Association. The result is an online wellbeing resource I’d liked to have given to my younger self.”

House of Memories is an award-winning museum-led dementia awareness programme, created by National Museums Liverpool, that understands the significance of a person’s history and memory. Developed to support and improve communications in the sharing of memories with people living with dementia. You can find their latest workshops here.

SOLA Arts is a participant-led charity based in Liverpool who work with displaced people, or those experiencing mental distress or isolation. They use creativity as the foundation, to share journeys from point of crisis, through to empowerment and opportunity.

Liverpool has arts and culture in abundance, the majority of which are free. Recognising the contribution arts can make to our mental health, we can take advantage of our green space, arts exhibitions or musical happenings which take place almost every day. Because, “when it feels like nothing can help, art sometimes can.” — Ari Potter.

If you are struggling with your mental health and want to find services near you, visit Hub of Hope or download the free app on iOs or Android.


Telling stories. Delivering events. Championing creativity. Inspiring audiences. Thinking forward. — Culture: the rocket fuel for regeneration.