General, Artists, Organisations

Mental Health Awareness Week

15th May, 2023

Mental Health Awareness Week 15th-21st May

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and we are taking a look back on some of the projects which ACNI has supported over the past year which touch on this theme.

Group of students from Ardnashee School and College taking part in a music workshop with Spark Opera. Participants are holding drumsticks.
Spark Opera will be delivering music workshops which focus on positive mental health and self expression at Ardnashee School and College, thanks to National Lottery Funding from the Arts Council's ARTiculate Programme. Pictured are Kate Guelke from Spark Opera and Lorraine Calderwood, ARTiculate Programme Manager at the Arts Council, with staff and pupils from the school.

St Vincent’s Centre, Belfast

Supported by the Arts Council National Lottery funding, Education Authority and Urban Villages Initiative, CSP is currently supporting projects in eleven schools in Belfast and Derry. Each school has had the opportunity to bring professional artists into the classroom to develop their own bespoke arts project with a focus on building new skills, self-esteem, and enhancing learning across key subjects. St Vincent’s Centre in Belfast is one of the schools taking part.

Rural Engagement Arts Programme (REAP)

The Rural Engagement Arts Programme (REAP), is an Arts Council funding scheme, supported by The National Lottery, which aims to increase access and participation in the arts in rural areas of Northern Ireland. REAP was established in 2022 by the Arts Council with input from the Rural Deliberative Forum and the 10 Local Authorities outside of Belfast, and seeks to provide an integrated, cohesive approach to the needs of local rural communities as they recover from the impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic, recognising the specific and ongoing issues they face as a result. Read more here: Tackling loneliness one note at a time | Arts Council NI (

Arts and Older People Programme (AOPP)

The Arts Council’s Arts & Older People Programme (AOPP) has been running for 13 years with support from The National Lottery, Public Health Agency and The Baring Foundation. It aims to reduce the isolation and loneliness felt by older people and carers via participation in arts projects designed to increase wellbeing and self-esteem. To date AOPP has supported more than 28,000 older people, in a range of care setting across NI, to access and participate in the arts. Read more here: Older people to benefit from £209,000 National… | Arts Council NI (

Alice McCullough, Arts Council’s Major Individual Award (MIA)

Poet and performer, Alice McCullough, was awarded a Major Individual Award from the Arts Council in October to develop her work, which focuses on disability rights activism and the poet’s perspectives on mental health and disability.

Her short film Earth to Alice, is a comedy-drama about facing the looking glass, battling blank canvases, going down rabbit holes, pouring your heart out, swimming upstream and all the magical things in between the cracks where the imagined world and the everyday meet. A timely and uncompromising look into the challenges and prejudices many people face on the road to recovery from serious mental illness, the film was originally created as part of BBC Arts’ Culture In Quarantine initiative, established in a partnership with BBC Arts, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland, Unlimited, The Space and the UK Disability Arts Alliance, to mark the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act into law, forming part of wider disability programming across the BBC. 

Spark Opera

Spark Opera is one of 24 groups awarded funding this year through the Arts Council’s ARTiculate Young People and Wellbeing Arts Programme.

The programme gives a voice to young people (aged 12-18) through drama, music, visual arts and literature activities. Spark Opera will use their funding to work with Ardnashee School and College and over the next six months students will work with professional artists to devise a new musical work, entitled Tribe. The workshops will be tailored to specifically meet the complex needs of students, with a focus on promoting positive mental health and self-expression. Read more here: Spark Opera awarded funding to develop new musical… | Arts Council NI (

Greater Shantallow Community Arts

A youth-led podcast, created by young people in Derry-Londonderry, along with Greater Shantallow Community Arts’ Studio 2, is helping to bring mental health issues to the fore.

The podcast is designed and produced by young people in the city and was established in response to the declining mental health of their peers, with the aim of promoting positive mental health and wellbeing. Within the podcast series, the young people have explored various topics including, dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, muscular dystrophy and talked to young people from the city who are living with these conditions and how these affect their mental health. You can catch up on all episodes of the first series of the Spill the Tae podcast at Spill the Tae youth led Podcast | Podcast on Spotify and Spill the Tae youth led Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Musicians Artists at Risk Settlement Scheme (MARRS)

Earlier this month, the Arts Council held its May board meeting at the Duncairn Arts Centre, were it met with musicians and artists from Iran, Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan. The artists are part of the Musicians Artists at Risk Resettlement Scheme (MARRS), a programme established in 2021 by Beyond Skin with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the wider arts, business, and community sectors. To date MARRS has supported over 200 adults & children, including professional and amateur artists as-well as those who wish to get involved in creative activities to improve their mental health, language skills or simply to meet and collaborate with different communities. To find out more about MARRS and the work of Beyond Skin visit