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Wednesday, 03 October 2018
By Mercè Santos Mir

As #MentalHealthAwareness day steps into the limelight for its annual day of recognition, we should ask ourselves if it ever left the limelight. Mental health awareness has become a daily conversation between friends, family, colleagues and health service providers across the country and abroad – breaking down a little piece of the taboo-topic each and every time we discuss anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and all the other conditions that fall under the Mental Health umbrella.

This Mental Health Awareness Day, we caught up with our Assistant Curator of Public Programmes and Research, Mercè Santos Mir, who has worked closely with artists who deal with issues of mental health within their practice, who put theirs and others' inner-experiences on canvas for all to see, to raise awareness and break down the barriers we face in the introverted dark of battling against a mental health condition.

Why celebrate World Mental Health Day?

Not many people know that I’ve been working in collaboration with the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) curating temporary exhibitions since 2014. My first contact with the IMH was after they invited artist Rachel Oxley to show a retrospective of her work. At the time Rachel was finishing her MFA at Nottingham Trent University and I was also finishing my MA in Curation at the same university. I had grown very close to Rachel during our studies while supporting each other through the rollercoaster of emotions that a postgrad can become. We were there for each other, at our best and at our worst. Rachel is a Nottingham based artist who deals with mental health subjects in her work, drawing most of her inspiration from her own experience living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). DID is a complex psychological condition caused by many factors, including severe trauma during early childhood. Due to the nature of my studies and our friendship, Rachel approached me for support while putting on her exhibition at the IMH titled Realities.

Since then I have worked with artists that use all sorts of media; photography, painting, sculpture, ceramics and many other, in artistic ways to share and explore their experiences with mental health. From conditions as common as depression or anxiety to more complex medical conditions like DID or schizoaffective disorder, I have learned that each of us have our own way to overcome and move forward. I have learned that artistic practices help us channel emotions and thoughts, and that helps a great deal in the process of recovery.

World Mental Health Day is on the 10th October. This year we’re commemorating the day with the launch of the exhibition The Twisted Rode and Other Lives by artist Andy Farr. I’m working with Andy to curate a thought-provoking exhibition focused on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Post-traumatic stress is more common than we think. Andy claims that his own traumatic experiences were much less severe than those who have suffered abuse or been involved in war conflicts, nevertheless they had a profound impact on his life, leaving his career in marketing research and advertising to become a full-time artist. With help from the IMH Andy has been meeting with other people who have experience post-traumatic stress to create a series of paintings that brings their experiences to life.


Andy says: “My hope with this exhibition is to show what it is like to suffer and recover from mental health problems, to raise awareness and consciousness of the issues surrounding trauma, and to provide positive therapeutic outcomes for those directly involved.”

It’s important to give visibility to artists like Rachel or Andy, and to support the work that organisations like the IMH and many others do in the city, to appreciate the space they provide, because it’s priceless.

World Mental Health Day is a day for global mental health education, a day of awareness and advocacy. It’s all about hearing those voices to break down the social stigma around mental health.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please call the NHS on 111 or visit NHS Every Mind Matters.

Posted by llitchfield at 9:20    COMMENTS
Friday, 21 September 2018
By Natelle Morgan-Brown

Launched in 2012 as part of World Alzheimer’s Month, today marks the 7th World Alzheimer’s Day; a global platform on which to raise awareness of the condition and understand more about the issues people living with conditions of Dementia face daily.

As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s affects around 65% of people diagnosed with the disease, which accounts for 850,000 people in the UK. To put that in perspective - someone in the UK will develop a form of dementia every three minutes. It’s said that a staggering 7.7 million people around the world (outside the UK) will develop dementia in the next year.

National campaigns and initiatives by organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society, have moved to not only awareness raising but encouraging individuals to take supportive action. As individuals, organisations and communities there are both big and small ways we can take action to support those who’re affected most by the condition. These things could include encouraging and supporting people to continue to do the things they like or have always done such as art and being creative in order to maintain their lifestyle and support with confidence and socialization. I think it’s likely many of us have heard of Dementia, have an awareness of the scale of the issue from TV or newspapers, have known someone living with the condition or affected as a carer/family member, or like me perhaps you’re one of the thousands who’ve trained as a Dementia Friend or Champion. Though how many people recognize the value arts and creativity plays in the fight against conditions like dementia?

“The arts have a vital role to play for people with dementia. Research demonstrates that visual arts, music, dance, digital creativity and other cultural activities can help to delay the onset of dementia and diminish its severity.”

Lord Howarth of Newport, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group

Imagination Cafe 2017, Nottingham Market Square, in collaboration with the University of West London.

By working with local and national partners, I’m working to integrate these ideas in particular as a core part of our Community program by continually develop our activities to better meet the needs of those living with Dementia and carers, aiming to enhance health and wellbeing, create social connections and increase their overal sense of happiness. Over the past few months this has included partnering with various organisations including the University of West London to coordinate the very first Imagination Café. The Café popped up in the Market Square (Nottingham) for two days and showcased art work created by people living with dementia. On the day we also delivered free of charge fun and accessible creative activities led by artists with experience of community art, alongside much needed community support services such as Admiral Nurses. Everyone at the event was chuffed to welcome Nottingham gem and Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador Vicky McClure as a guest alongside the city Mayor. Of course, it rained a few times, but it was a lovely day despite the weather and great to meet lots of different people who generously shared their stories and experiences with us.

I have also built valuable two-way relationships with local care homes enabling us to benefit from staff knowledge of support and care of vulnerable people at the same time of enabling us to share our exhibitions and sensitive approach to creative participation either here in the galleries or out in residential settings. Today, as part of our partnership with the Institute of Mental Health and Wellbeing at University of Nottingham, we’re hosting a beautiful performance of Silva Linings. Without giving too much away, the script written by Elspeth Penny is based on consultation and real-life experience of professional carers and features Silva and her home carer as they are both affected by her dementia onset. Working with the Service User Involvement Officer and Dementia Support or SURP for short, group a few weeks ago gave us a deeper understanding of some of the ways we can improve our building and activities. As an organization, it’s a pleasure to be able to host events such as this and understand how research into areas of mental health can support us to create a program of activities which is accessible and relevant for the whole community.


If you would like more information about the creative workshops we offer either at Nottingham Contemporary or out in the community or you would like to discuss being a partner on our programmes, please get in touch with Natelle Morgan-Brown on  0115 9489785 or email Visit to read more about our upcoming projects and community programme.

For more information about how arts can support people living with dementia and their carers visit:

For more information about the Imagination Café and the Institute of Mental health (UoN) visit: or

For more information about the Alzheimer’s Society visit:


Posted by llitchfield at 13:33    COMMENTS


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