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Mental Health Awareness Week, 10-16 May 2021

Monday 10th May 2021 at 10am 0 Comments Arts & Health

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 Image: Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, 10-16 May, 2021, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has rounded up just some of the many amazing arts organisations that use the arts as a tool to improve mental health and wellbeing for people across the region, supported by The National Lottery and the Department for Communities.

Discussing the value of arts upon mental health, Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Participation, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said,

“I am delighted to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of arts and culture on mental health and wellbeing during Mental Health Awareness Week.  The Arts Council’s mission is to ‘place the arts at the heart of our social, economic and creative life’ and we work to achieve this by championing, developing and investing in arts and cultural experiences that enrich people's lives.

We recognise the contribution culture and the arts can bring to a healthy society and actively encourage the artists and organisations we fund to work within this important area.  Arts and culture plays a hugely important role in helping people to stay well, recover faster, and meet major challenges facing health and social care, including mental health. 

Thanks to the Department for Communities and The National Lottery players, the Arts Council is able to support hundreds of organisations and individual artists every year who are working to improve mental health and wellbeing, by bringing great art to people of all ages, across Northern Ireland.”

Each week, The National Lottery players raise £30million for good causes across the UK.  Some of the Northern Ireland arts organisations working in mental health that are supported by The National Lottery and the Department for Communities, are outlined below:

Northern Ireland Mental Health Festival
The NI Mental Health Arts Festival sparks inspiring and challenging conversations about mental health issues, fighting stigma and promoting wellbeing via active creativity.  This year’s festival will run from 10th-16th May 2021 (to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week) with a  programme of varied, vivid arts events that aim to create a platform for high-quality artwork that deals compassionately and intelligently with mental health.  As a response to the call for a Loneliness Strategy in Northern Ireland, this year’s festival will include a specially commissioned publication on the theme of 'Loneliness' which will link to artworks, soundscapes and dance pieces on the NIMHAF website.

In this video, we hear from the Arts Council’s, Head of Community Arts, Gilly Campbell, talking about the importance of the arts and mental health.  

Outburst Arts 
Outburst Arts is all about making space for exciting artists who aren't afraid to explore the highs and lows of queer experiences through work we can all relate to.  The impacts of homophobia, transphobia, exclusion and invisibility mean that LGBTQ+ people in Northern Ireland are six times more likely to live with depression and poor mental health. 

The arts are a brilliant antidote to the things that bring us down. When you see your experiences explored on stage, or can laugh along with someone satirising the things that oppress you, or can read a book with a character you identify with, that can mean everything. Folks who come to Outburst often tell us that they are thinking about things they see and experience at the festival weeks and even months later. Visibility matters, storytelling matters, seeing your life experience given attention and respect in all its complexity and nuance really matters. That's what the arts does for queer people. It is vital, expansive and joyful. Visit to learn more about this impressive organisation. 

Arts Care
Arts Care, one of the leading arts, health and well-being organisations based in Northern Ireland, has been providing an online arts training programme to nurses and healthcare workers, with the aim of upskilling staff and giving them the confidence to deliver arts activities to vulnerable older people in residential care settings.  To date 150 healthcare staff have signed up to take part in the training which is funded by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Arts & Older People Programme.  

The arts training programme empowers healthcare workers to use both the Art Boxes and the online resource, Arts Care 4U, to bring the joy of the arts to the older people they care for.  The overall aim is for staff to use the arts as a tool to promote positive mental, emotional and physical health at a time when many residents are suffering greatly from isolation and loneliness as a result of the pandemic restrictions.  This is just one example of the great work that Arts Care do.  Visit and Arts Care 4U - YouTube to discover more about this remarkable organisation that do such impactful work. 

Kids in Control (KIC)
KIC firmly believe that Art is about everything and for everyone.  KIC is a professional theatre company that values children and young people of all abilities and backgrounds and is the foremost professional physical theatre company working with young people in Northern Ireland. They are profoundly inclusive and cut through traditional divisions of physical and learning ability, religion and social background.  Skill sharing and empathy between participants are the cornerstones of KIC’s artistic practice, which ensures diversity, tolerance and creative generosity among all of their participants.

For more information of this terrific organisation visit

You can watch the film, PILLS, on Belfast Live at

ArtEkta is a multi-award winning cultural organisation that works to develop intercultural relationships at the heart of the community and is home to the Belfast Mela – the largest celebration of cultural diversity on the island of Ireland.  The brainchild of Indian-native Nisha Tandon, ArtsEkta was founded in 2006 on the principles of inclusivity, creativity and openness in all aspects of society – Ekta means ‘uniting’ in the Indian language.  Bringing together communities of Belfast and beyond, they create projects that inspire audiences to engage with the diversity, tastes, rhythms and sights that make up the multicultural life of Northern Ireland.

Arts Ekta’s recent, Seasons of Wonder, project explored the seasons of nature through a series of arts and crafts workshops to promote mindfulness, positive mental health and wellbeing among women.  Participants were aged between22-65 and included the Global Crescents Women’s Group and the South Belfast Indian Women’s Group in partnership with Belfast Alternatives. These were all women who had to remain at home during the pandemic, either due to self-isolating, being furloughed from work or due to family commitments.  Together they worked with artists online to enhance their connection to nature, recall special memories, dates and celebrations within various seasons, and created new artworks in stained glass and ceramics that represented each season.

Learn more about ArtsEkta at 

Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA)
GSCA is a community arts organisation aiming to provide direct access to the arts within disadvantaged communities in the Greater Shantallow area of Derry-Londonderry.  They work with people of all in ages throughout the community.  One of their recent mental health video projects, 13 Reasons to Not, looked at the issue of youth suicide.  It was created at their arts centre, Studio 2, and is the work of their young volunteers.  The video represents the young participants’ response to suicide, the surrounding issues and where support can be obtained throughout the city.  To learn more about the important and impressive work of GSCA visit

Watch the powerful video, 13 Reasons to Not, at

Armstrong Storytelling
Armstrong Storytelling Trust is a current recipient of the Arts Council’s Arts & Older People’s Programme which aims to promote positive mental health and wellbeing in older people through engagement with the arts. 

Their storytelling project aims to bring the traditional art of storytelling, music and reminiscence sessions to older people, aged 70+, across Northern Ireland who are experiencing dementia and isolation.  It is anticipated that Armstrong Storytelling will have delivered 40 sessions to individuals in their own homes digitally through Zoom, between January and May 2021.  Armstrong Storytelling have created strong working partnerships with Dementia NI, DEED (Dementia, Engaged and Empowered Derry) and Alzheimer’s Society to identify suitable participants.

The project is led by Liz Weir, who is also the Storyteller in Residence at Libraries NI.  Why not take some time out from your busy day to enjoy listening to Liz telling a story here


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