National Arts and Youth Mental Health project awarded record £2.5 million

Arts4Us is one of the largest research grants ever awarded in the UK for arts and arts therapies.
A headshot of a winsome young woman with a red-haired side part bob and a black scoop neck top. Behind her is an out of focus body of water and two green hills.

A new Edge Hill University-led mental health project for young people, in collaboration with the Jameel Arts and Health Lab and World Health Organisation, has won £2.5 million through UKRI (the UK Research and Innovation organisation).

Arts4Us is one of the largest research grants ever awarded in the UK for arts and arts therapies.

The program focuses on the mental health of young people aged nine to 13, a group at significant risk of developing mental health problems while transitioning from childhood to adolescence.

The funding has been directed towards a project that will create an easy-to-use digital platform where evidence-based local arts activities can be made accessible for children and young people (CYP), their families and relevant organisations and services.

The University explains: ‘CYP will act as co-researchers maximising the benefits of arts activities that support their mental health. They will work jointly with community partners, health services and academic institutions to develop evaluative frameworks, digital material and good arts-based practice that will support the mental health of CYP in the Northwest.’

While the project is hosted and steered by Edge Hill University, it is collaborative in nature, pulling together 50 partners. This ensures that sustainability and scalability of the project.

These include academic institutions, NHS (National Health Service) trusts, schools and community organisations in the north-west.

Dr Nils Fietje, Research Officer at World Health Organization (WHO) and co-Director of the Jameel Arts and Health Lab, says of the collaboration: ‘WHO has called on all countries to deepen the value given to mental health, prioritising promotion and prevention, and developing networks of community-based services.

‘Arts4Us will do just that, having a positive impact on the mental health of young people, not only across England but also, once scaled up, on an international level.’

Heading up the delivery of the project is Professor Vicky Karkou, Director of the Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing at Edge Hill University and Affiliated Researcher with the Jameel Arts and Health Lab.

The Arts4us project is currently recruiting for 10 posts.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina