BC Arts and Mental Health Network

Thanks to a grant from the BC Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, the Highs & Lows Mental Health Choir invited community organizations, and neighbourhood houses who work with people with lived experience and personal expertise of mental illness, artists with mental health issues, funders, representatives from health authorities, and the municipal government to come together for a dialogue about the importance of the arts in mental health recovery.

Community Conversations about Arts and Mental Health took place in Vancouver in November 2019; its purpose was:

  • Connecting and building relationships to share resources and information
  • Creating an ongoing communication network among organizations who offer arts and mental health options in their work
  • Discovering possibilities for collective action: build momentum for creating a document that we can use to let funders know the importance of arts in mental health recovery, and possibly other collaborative actions

“Art therapy articulates what there are no words for.” — Participant

The groups identified the positive impact of the arts and mental health recovery. Other positive impacts that surfaced out of the group discussions included:

  • Supporting each other
  • Creating an accessible and safe space where creativity is encouraged
  • Building relations and community
  • Connect with rural communities outside the lower mainland
  • Belonging to a group
  • Gaining insight into traumatic experiences
  • Healing
  • Fostering self-esteem

We explored some of the most pressing issues and obstacles related to the arts and mental health:

  • Funding
    • Lack of money
    • The stress of never-ending fundraising
    • How to write a good grant application
  • The need for dedicated affordable arts spaces for mental health and arts programs
  • Not enough networking among us
  • How to reduce competition among us for funding
  • Funders’ narrow interpretation of what is art
  • Decisions need to be consumer-driven – mental health artists need to be involved in the process
  • Education needed for funders and community organizations about the importance of the arts in mental health recovery

We identified what we could do collectively:

  • Create a report from the arts community about the critical importance of arts and mental health recovery
  • Investigate collaborative projects and share resources
  • Put together a joint submission to the Ministry for Mental Health & Additions outlining the money that could be saved by funding an arts and mental health initiative
  • Partner with larger existing/established arts organizations (e.g., symphony, galleries); less stigma, pooling resources and create the benefit of larger community being encouraged to access our events
  • Explore options for public education about the importance of arts and mental health to show that it’s not a “frill”
  • Prescribe art as a funded treatment option
  • Network
    • Website for all arts and mental health organizations
    • Facebook
    • Collective postings for arts gatherings
    • Information hub – funding possibilities, events, promotion
    • A dedicated space and person to co-ordinate all of this
  • Research and create a document that organizations can modify and use for funders and other promotion to highlight the seriousness of funding arts and mental health initiatives
  • Create an electronic network based on participation in this gathering
  • Set up a consortium of mental health and arts organizations
  • Encourage medical profession lobby for arts and therapeutic intervention

    “Freedom of expression is critical to those with mental illness and that our culture, by and large, doesn’t facilitate this.” – Participant