Change Minds Archives and Mental Wellbeing Conference

In March we are holding an Archives and Mental Wellbeing Conference to launch our project template based on Change Minds.

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Human Henge at TAG 2017 – Walking with Intent: Culture therapy in historic landscapes

Laura Drsydale, Director, Restoration Trust

There are these moments in time and space, these conjunctions, when ideas coalesce, and I wonder if TAG 2017 is one of them. Where we can talk about health, psychogeographies, forgetting, time, memory, poetry and place, and have a sense of resonance and reciprocity across our overlapping interests.

But I am at the end before the beginning, since resonance and reciprocity are words from the vocabulary of group analysis, to which I will come later.

I was at the session on archaeology and mental health at TAG 2015, when we were developing Human Henge. I watched the YouTube video of Dr Rathouse’s talk last night, and it reminded me how helpful the papers and conversations were to our thinking. This is a shared endeavor, so as a non-archaeologist, thank you TAG.

Now, I will tell you something about the Restoration Trust. We are a small charity that supports people to engage with heritage, art and culture so that their mental health improves. We call this culture therapy. We are usually producers – we broker partnerships, develop projects, find the money and manage the project.

Our current heritage foci are archaeology and the historic landscape, and archives. Why? Well, it’s partly pragmatic – availability and a culture of public entitlement to information in both arenas. But it is also because both archives and archaeology have a delicious tension between the quest for knowledge and the impossibility of total success in that quest. It is there, in the space between knowing and not knowing that our projects make a difference, for there is where imagination lives. More of that later too.

Heritage and mental health are certainly politically congruent at the moment. Mental health demand is rising, services are shrinking. National and local government need new ways to help people with their mental health, so all the various organs of the state, including lottery distributors, are on the case. Arts are front runners, for example with the report Creative Health published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts and Health. Museums are catching up through the work of Professor Helen Chatterjee and her colleagues, but the wider heritage lags behind, it lacks a champion. Yet here it is, all around us, visible, hidden or intangible; and the thought of therapeutic landscapes lies deep within us.

Our two current landscape projects are Human Henge at Stonehenge and now at Avebury, and Burgh Castle Almanac at Burgh Castle roman fort in Norfolk. Both projects are largely HLF funded. Burgh Castle Almanac kicks off properly in January.  It is a year-long 24-session programme – that happens two years running – of walking, talking and making at the Castle, and at Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth. Norfolk Archaeological Trust is the lead partner.

Human Henge you will hear about from Professor Darvill and Dr Heaslip, and I hope also from members who are here at TAG. Briefly, it is a programme of 10 weekly walks for a facilitated group accompanied by archaeologists and musicians. Pilot 1 ran from October to December 2016, Pilot 2 from January to March 2017. In January we will run Pilot 3 at Avebury, to see how a different site impacts on the process. There is masses of information about Human Henge online at www.humanhenge.org

I would like to pay tribute to the whole astonishing network of participants, support workers, volunteers, board members, funders, partners, experts, creatives, researchers and staff who are the project; they, along with the sites, the collections, the weather, the administration, the biscuits, make up the Human Henge matrix, to use group terminology once more.

Both Human Henge and Burgh Castle Almanac meet our Criteria for Success, listed on the slide.

Let’s take one of these – Groupwork is the core.

Foulkes[1] described what happens when a collection of individuals meets routinely together with someone he named a conductor:

“They will begin to live, feel, think, act and talk more in terms of ‘we’ than in terms of ‘I’, ‘you’, and he’. At the same time, and I want to stress this point, the individuals do not become submerged but, on the contrary, show up their personal characteristics more and more distinctly within the dynamic interplay of an everchanging and often highly dramatic scene. As soon as this little sample community shows signs of organization and structure in the way described, we will call it a group.”

This is what we are trying to achieve in Human Henge.

So over 10 weeks of sustained and regular involvement within a context of safe frameworks and practice, and with expert facilitation, in this case from Yvette Staelens with Daniel O’Donoghue, a group begins to form. How does a historic landscape help? Or rather how does being in a historic landscape in the company of people who know a lot about it help? Because that is one of our criteria – privileged access to real cultural assets AND expertise.

It is only human to be in nature, to use our bodies and minds, to connect with each other, to be creative. And it is certainly better than some of the alternatives, such as loneliness, boredom and sadness. But why the historic bit?

It is not a universal prescription, for strange as it may seem, not everyone is interested in the past! But for those who are, and who can find the strength to face the daunting prospect of a project like Human Henge, historic landscapes are one way to face down mental illness’s erosion of the self.

Mental illness attacks space. For example it fills mental space with futile rumination or terrifying psychosis, or it negates it with a horrible combination of restlessness and passivity in depression. It makes space malignant so that it cannot be traversed to connect with others. It compromises time as it telescopes the past into the present with all-consuming flashbacks. Without space to think, to act, nothing creative can happen, there can be no imagination, no relating. A group experience of a historic landscape illuminated by people who know about it open ups multiple vistas of temporal, topographical and psychological space. It is a short cut to the imagination.

When people feel safe enough to take the enormous risk of embarking on a journey in both time and space, taking part in a strange wellbeing experiment in some fields, albeit fields that are among the most famous on the planet, with people they have never met, that’s when they may do things they never thought possible. It is when, hopefully, they can enjoy the richness of their own humanity.

I will leave you with this poem by Chris Jessup.

 

[1] S. H. FOULKES (1946) “ON GROUP ANALYSIS” Originally published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 27:46‐51, 1946. Later in a shortened version in Selected Papers: Psychoanalysis and Group Analysis, pp. 137‐144, eds. M. Pines y E. Foulkes, Karnac Books, Londres: 1990.

 

Human Henge Press – December 2017

The Wild Hunt

The role of ancient landscapes in mental health 

by Liz Williams

Modern celebrants have been convening at the ancient site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire for many years now: revivalist Druids of the early 20th century, hippies of the 1960s and 70s, New Age travelers and political activists, and modern Pagans have all gathered at the summer and winter solstices to hold free music festivals, conduct rituals, hold raves, and simply acknowledge the turning points of the year.

The role of the site is ongoing and has a highly significant place in the practices of contemporary Pagans worldwide, but not just Pagans alone. As well as solstice rites and ongoing archaeological work, Stonehenge is now the focus for a wider new initiative: the Human Henge Project.

Read more

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An article about Human Henge featured in The Guardian to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

Hundreds gather for Stonehenge sunrise after winter solstice

by Steven Morris

Some of those attending the winter solstice celebrations at Stonehenge were there to worship, others to party or to simply to enjoy the rise of the sun after the longest night and look forward to lengthening days and springtime.

Despite it being a gloomy, soggy morning in Wiltshire, there was a joyful atmosphere as hundreds of people gathered to witness the light return.

There is evidence that spending time near or within the standing stones can actually be good for mental wellbeing.

Read more

Find out more about Human Henge on our website http://humanhenge.org/

Press release: Norfolk mental health project Change Minds goes national!

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Norfolk mental health project Change Minds goes national!

Norman Lamb MP hosts reception for Norfolk mental health project Change Minds at the Houses of Parliament

www.changeminds.org.uk

“There is more to somebody than just mental health problems.”

Change Minds participant

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Change Minds Private view at The Forum, Norwich, Monday 20th November.

To celebrate two years of Norfolk archives and mental health project Change Minds, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has invited participants to the Houses of Parliament for a special visit and reception on Monday 4th of December 2017.

Change Minds helps very disadvantaged people in North Norfolk make creative use of Norfolk Record Office and local libraries for their mental health. Through the 19th century asylum archives in Norfolk Record Office, participants explore life with a mental health problem in the 1880s, and compare it with their experience today. Research by the UEA and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust shows that Change Minds participants feel more positive and have reduced their use of health services.

The project is a partnership between the Restoration Trust, Norfolk Record Office, Norfolk Library and Information Service and Together for Mental Wellbeing, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Our new project in Norwich starts in February at the Millennium Library, with funding from Town Close Estate Charity.

We want to spread the word about Change Minds at national level because evidence shows that it is an innovative, cost-effective way to connect very disadvantaged people with local history and each other so that their mental health improves.  

In the morning Head of Parliamentary Archives David Prior will show participants original documents relating to asylums and mental health treatment from the 19th Century to today. The afternoon reception in Portcullis House will include speeches by participants, Isobel Hunter – Head of Archives Sector Development at the National Archives, Joff Whitten – Heritage Lottery Fund East of England Committee, and Norman Lamb MP. Attendees will include Clive Lewis MP, Chloe Smith MP, Rehman Chishti MP, Kevan Jones MP, Andrew Mitchell MP, Lord Alan Howarth and Baroness Hollins.

Change Minds has just had a major exhibition at the Forum in Norwich, launched with an event attended by the Sheriff of Norwich, the Chairman of Norfolk County Council and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, with media in the Eastern Daily Press, on BBC Radio Norfolk and Future Radio. Visited by more than 1,000 people, comments included: ‘Really fascinating – revisiting themes that impact on mental health just as relevant today – poverty, family relationship breakdown, isolation, alcohol use: ‘Brilliant, we need to do more of this, ALL of us. Mental illness is not shameful.’

Director of the Restoration Trust Laura Drysdale says: ‘We’re delighted that Change Minds participants have the opportunity to tell national politicians and decision makers about the difference this successful archives and mental health project has made to their lives. We are really grateful to the project’s patron Norman Lamb MP for hosting us at the Houses of Parliament.’

The Restoration Trust’s culture therapy projects at Norfolk Record Office, Burgh Castle, Norwich Arts Centre, Stonehenge and Avebury help people with serious mental health problems enjoy heritage, art and culture in a safe, effective way.

“We need to make a vital cultural shift to help us ensure that the arts are fully embedded in the health and social care system.”

Rt Hon. John Glen MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Arts, Heritage and Tourism


For more information about Change Minds and the Restoration Trust contact

Laura Drysdale: laura@restorationtrust.org.uk | 07740844883