We spoke with Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of the Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 team to find out more about Arts and Culture in Strengthening Communities, and what to expect from their symposium at TheMHS Conference in Brisbane this August.
1. When did mental health become an area of focus for the Coventry UK City of Culture team?
Since I took up the role in Coventry it became clear to me that we needed to address the mental health issues that a majority of our citizens are facing here in the city. Our city is no different to many others and poor mental health crosses over with many other concerns, including homelessness, the exploitation of young people and the experience of new communities arriving in the city. There’s a culture shift to prioritise mental health within the UKs public health sectors looking to embrace the relationship between health and arts as a way of improving the wellbeing those most at risk in the city including young adults, those experiencing loneliness, social isolation or poor mental health.
2. Why should people come and listen to your symposium at TheMHS Conference?
We want to shine a light on how engaging people in arts activities can create huge benefits to those most at need. There will be a focus session on social prescribing, championing some of the best practice we have seen, both from our home city and others more globally who are leading the way in the field. The session will be interactive with an opportunity to imagine new possibilities for the future of art and health along with some sign posting to organisations who might help develop frameworks and new models for working. We will also highlight some of the great arts in health work already happening in Australia; we are there to cultivate excellence, stimulate thought and demonstrate the value of the arts by actively shaking up your day.
3. How do you see the Arts impacting health, well-being and inclusion in the future?
We know from key research, studies and testimonies already that the arts has a huge beneficial impact on wellbeing and mental health. It reduces the costs on health care, patient visits to their GP and improves the lived experiences of those who are most at risk of becoming mentally ill. If we can galvanise the health sectors, voluntary organisation, charities and key health commissioners to consider working collaboratively, this work will only grow to become more sustainable and accessible to more people in our cities. We also believe that there is a compelling case which indicates that coordinated and preventative support in partnership with art engagement will result in a fewer cases of crisis care in our communities.
4. Why are you looking forward to coming to Brisbane?
We are excited to hear more about exemplars from the health sector in Australia and to share the best of what is happening in the UK in arts and mental health. We also want to give delegates the confidence and knowledge to consider how they might reach out to art organisations and charities to inform their work from the outset. We hope our visit will lead to building fantastic long-term relationships where we might be continue to share learning, disseminate models of best practice and hold up exemplary projects across Australia and the UK that are having the greatest impact on people’s wellbeing.
5. Where can people find out more about your work?