The Mental Health Plan
The National Centre for Creative Health (NCCH) has led a response to the Government’s recent consultation to inform a new 10-year mental health plan, working closely with CHWA and the LENs (lived experience network). The consultation recognised the increase in people living with mental health conditions, the additional impact of covid-19, as well as inequalities in poor mental health, and asked respondents to identify what needs to be done in order to respond to these challenges.
The organisations together highlighted the vital role of creative health in preventing, managing and treating mental ill-health and recommended changes that could be made in the healthcare system to make it easier for people to feel its benefits.
Creative Health and Mental Health
We know that creative health approaches can support mental health in numerous and diverse ways, whether it be improving wellbeing through everyday engagement with creative activities, or more targeted approaches to manage specific mental health conditions. Creative activities have been shown to have benefits for regulating emotions, meaning-making, stress, coping skills, confidence and self-esteem and to contribute to prevention and management of depression and anxiety across a range of settings. They can also be used to improve the conditions in which people live and to encourage community engagement. The value of creative activity for mental health is increasingly recognised within the health service and by cultural institutions, which now regularly offer programmes to support health and wellbeing. The Baring Foundation has recently released the Second Edition of Creatively Minded: The Directory which lists around 320 UK organisations working in arts and mental health.
The consultation addressed all aspects of mental health from everyday wellbeing to severe mental illness, across all age groups, and covered prevention, treatment and improving quality of life for people living with mental health conditions. We submitted evidence for the value of creative health across all these areas, along with a wealth of examples of where such work is being successfully carried out. Nevertheless, challenges remain around investment in creative health, and how practitioners and infrastructure organisations can be best supported to deliver this work in a sustainable way. From Surviving to Thriving, released by CHWA earlier this year, sets out a roadmap for sustainable practice based on research with practitioners and these findings were represented in our submission.
We were also able to point to the importance of co-production and the powerful role of culture and creativity in expressing lived experience, in changing perception and attitudes, reducing stigma, and eliciting greater understanding of the need to inform more acceptable and accessible mental health services. Creative approaches have been used to facilitate the co-design of more culturally competent services, with the potential to break down structural inequalities in the mental health system, which have historically led to exclusion and poorer health outcomes for specific communities.
We have advocated for a holistic and person-centred approach to mental health care, which takes into account the social determinants of mental health. Moving towards a society that promotes good mental health requires a cross-departmental approach and we believe that creative health approaches have much to offer across education, levelling-up, employment and justice as well as health and social care.
Our submission has been informed by the work that has been taking place across our Hubs to embed creative health in integrated care systems and we are developing resources to help spread and scale this more widely. Our Huddles will continue to develop creative approaches to improve mental health through co-production. As this work progresses, we will be promoting the benefits of creativity for mental health, identifying what more needs to be done, and feeding into the development of the mental health and wellbeing plan.
We were inspired by the range of activities and experiences discussed at our recent webinar around the call for evidence, and we are keen to keep in touch beyond the consultation to contribute further to this strategy as it evolves.