Creativity and engaging in the arts can benefit individual and community health, from spreading public health messages, to supporting wellbeing in isolation. It is widely recognised that many mental health problems develop in childhood and adolescence. The Greater Manchester i-THRIVE Arts, Culture and Mental Health programme was established to build on the known links between creativity and wellbeing, arts, culture and health, to bring fresh/innovative and age-appropriate solutions to the challenge of meeting the mental health needs to Greater Manchester’s young people.

Aims of the Programme

The team are brokering new partnerships with the cultural sector to improve the links to health and social care. We have an exciting range of arts-led treatment options ready to deliver in NHS services including, for example, group performance art, and craft-based interventions. These ‘proof of concepts’ will be subject to evaluation, using a new cross-sector evaluation framework developed in collaboration with arts providers across GM including Arts Council England. This framework will be launched for wide use as part of the feature month at the end of July.

The GM iTHRIVE team aim to ensure that the benefits of arts and culture, and viable arts-led treatment options, are realised by the wider system in an evidenced-based way.

Creative and arts-based activities can support mental health in many important ways:

  • story-telling can aid sense-making and answer questions in accessible ways
  • arts engagement can provide relaxation, distraction and absorption
  • arts engagement has been shown to reduce the harmful effects of stress on the body and protect the immune system
  • arts activities build self-esteem, senses of achievement and pride
  • culture and the arts can engender a sense of awe, an emotion with social benefits
  • culture improves connection and belonging,  and can be achieved now through, for example, joint projects and competitions
  • creative exploration helps to foster meaning and purpose during unsettling times.

Dr Paul Wallis, Psychology Lead for GM, said:

“We are incredibly fortunate in Greater Manchester to be able to further promote the crucial role that Arts and Culture have in positive mental health. As an integral part of our GM iTHRIVE the Arts and Culture programme is key to extending and broadening the system offer to children and young people in support of their emotional health and well-being. We are already working with many different Arts and Culture organisations to highlight the fantastic work they are doing to improve self-esteem, confidence and mental health including the development of a clear outcomes framework to ensure that these improvements can be showcased to a broad audience."