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Arts for the Blues

Working in collaboration with the University of Salford, we’ve developed an approach that helps to address the mental health crisis, offering an alternative to talking therapies.

Depression affects more than 280 million people globally. It is a leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. It is the most common mental health condition, which often brings people into contact with primary care mental health services within the NHS. In England, this mainly involves the provision of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), an intervention that largely relies on people talking about their problems and readjusting maladaptive thoughts. However, research shows that thinking and talking are not always relevant to the diverse populations that primary care teams in England serve, such as those from different socio-economic, educational or ethnic backgrounds, those whose English may be limited and those with learning difficulties.

To address this challenge, we developed Arts for the Blues, an evidence-based model that offers an alternative to talking therapies. The model consists of a twelve-session creative group intervention, using visual arts, movement, creative writing and music making. As a result, participants can express themselves in ways that they feel most comfortable, creating a rich psychological process. The group therapy approach is particularly helpful, providing a safe and inclusive setting where people can engage when they feel ready. Furthermore, because the practitioners leading sessions get involved, it further reduces barriers to engagement. We have now trained over 400 practitioners who are delivering Arts for the Blues across the UK to both primary mental health care services for adults, and children and young people via Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Arts for the Blues is also being accessed by carers and frontline NHS staff.

Building on the success of Arts for the Blues, we were recently awarded £2.5m to develop the Arts4US project. This will bring together the best practice in arts and arts therapies into one digital platform, making it easier for young people and their families to find crucial help. It comes at a time when one in five children and young people are struggling with their mental health as they transition from childhood to adolescence.

“People have learned that you can have fun and you can learn from playing games. It’s giving them a chance to let their guard down. Enabling them to do that has enabled them to take the next step.”

Caroline Cook, Wellbeing Project Senior Coordinator, Mind