Our mental health has long been ignored by all those with legal and ethical responsibilities for health and social care. In fact, there is evidence to believe that it is one of the most cited factors for stigmatisation and exclusion. In addition, we have evidence that show that bad mental health can lead to different forms of disability, while it is responsible for 30-40% of chronic sick leave and costing some 3% of GDP. More common than diabetes, cancer or heart disease, mental illnesses fill up to 21% of all hospital beds at any given time. Moreover, people suffering from mental illness and especially those who live in mental health structures are in the forefront of socially disadvantaged groups, suffering from social stigmatization and marginalization.
Admittedly, we have come a long way in acknowledging and dealing with some mental health issues, and society is gradually becoming more accepting. This progress is not the same across Europe as some countries are impacted by ingrained attitudes, societal and cultural factors while they might also lack the awareness, knowledge and skills that are needed to respond to current realities.
RJ4All put together the Mental Health Matters (MHM) project to respond to this need. The impetus came from our belief that empowerment in mental health settings and therapy can have a significant positive impact on patients’ healing process. If art and restorative justice as two separate concepts can create unique emotions and a process of empowerment and healing, then why not bring them together as therapeutic tools for mental health?
Mental Health Matters through Restorative Art (MHM) aims to respond to this gap by bringing together a cross-sector, strategic partnership of 6 organisations from the UK, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Hungary. The project is funded by Erasmus+ and is coordinated by the RJ4All International Institute. The partners are the Centre for Social Innovation (Cyprus), EDRA (Greece), Intras (Spain), Athens School of Fine Arts (Greece) and Lelekben Otthon (Hungary).
Ultimately, MHM aims to enhance the skills, knowledge and experience of mental health professionals through the use of art and restorative justice. MHM also aims to train artists to use restorative justice in order to facilitate the relief of mentally ill and their social restoration. To this end, the project will create innovative tools that enhance the healthcare provision. This is the first project to also create a methodological approach which puts together the benefits of the art therapy with the values of restorative justice.