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Arts4Us: Place2Be advising on newly-funded children's mental health project

Place2Be is acting in an advisory role on an arts and mental health research project, 'Arts4Us', led by Edge Hill University. The project has won £2.5m of funding, which is one of the largest research grants of its kind ever awarded nationally in the arts and arts therapies.

a young girl holding a book, with a blank expression in a dark room

Arts4Us will bring together the best practice in arts and arts therapies under one digital platform, making it easier for young people and their families to find the crucial help they need.

Professor Vicky Karkou from Edge Hill University is leading this massive collaborative enterprise with more than 50 partners from the following communities in the North West:

  • academic institutions
  • NHS trusts
  • schools
  • community organisations.

She said: "One in five children and young people are struggling with their mental health as they transition from childhood to adolescence. We know that the services available do not cover their needs.

"Thinking and talking about problems is not always how children communicate and resolve their problems. Creative interventions, like music classes, painting sessions, drama and theatre projects or dance movement therapy groups, are an effective alternative but may not be easily accessible in mental health services."

Arts4Us aims to change that. We want to ensure children and young people will be able to access the mental health support they need regardless of where they live. Professor Vicky Karkou

The project will also create 11 new jobs, boosting employability and skills in the region.

The Arts4Us interactive platform will focus on 9- to 13-year-olds. It will encourage them to develop skills around accessing and maximising the benefits of arts activities that support their mental health. They will help co-design all aspects of the project, ensuring the content and support are user-friendly and relevant to them.

NHS services can also use the digital platform to signpost patients to support, building collaborations across community partners and healthcare in the North West. As the project can be scaled up, it will be shared nationally as well as internationally.

Professor Nusrat Husain, Director of Research and Innovation at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We know that 50% of mental disorders begin before the age of 14 years old and unfortunately, many children and young people do not have access to appropriate mental health care.

"Arts4Us, which is of huge public mental health importance, has the potential to change this because the intervention is engaging and builds on co-developed research with young people."

Stephen Sandford, music therapist and Chief Allied Health Professions Officer for NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board added, "We know our children and young people recognise the positive contribution that arts and culture make to their health and well-being.

"This landmark funding award for Arts4Us is a fabulous opportunity to further integrate the value of arts, culture, and creative health partnerships."

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) awarded Arts4Us £2.5 million in the third phase of its Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Inequalities programme.

The funding boost is a record-breaking success for Edge Hill; the sum is the largest single research grant ever awarded to the University.

The team behind the successful bid and ongoing project collaboration includes Edge Hill University colleagues:

  • Dr Helen O’Keeffe, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Education
  • Andy Smith, Professor of Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health
  • Dr Michelle Howarth, Senior Engagement Fellow
  • Dr Shaun Liverpool, Senior Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Mental Health
  • Marcello Trovati, Professor in Computer Science.

Arts4Us will build on the success of the award-winning arts-based group intervention project Arts for the Blues, which is also led by Professor Karkou and academics at The University of Salford. Learning from the Arts for the Blues project will be a useful blueprint for improving provision for children and young people through Arts4Us.

The project falls under Edge Hill’s thriving Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing and will create 11 new appointments, offering exciting new opportunities for graduates and boosting skills in the region:

  • six creative health associates will work within NHS and community organisations to gather information about local needs, identify projects, develop an agreed evaluation framework and share good practice
  • Edge Hill will host three new roles - a postdoctoral fellow, a project manager, and a research assistant
  • the University of Salford and the University of Liverpool will each create one new research assistant position.

Find out more about Arts4Us on their website. If you are 24 years old or under and have lived experience of mental health symptoms between 9 and 13 years of age, you could help to shape the project as a YoungArts4Us panel member - email artswell@edgehill.ac.uk.

Read more about Place2Be's research

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