Mutual Recovery for Mental Health and Wellbeing through Creative Practice

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: School of Health Sciences


This project development grant is focussed upon the creation of a substantial consortia proposal in the area of mutual recovery through creative practice in a mental health context. By mutual recovery we refer to the potentials for variously connected communities of services users, health professionals and informal carers to facilitate each other's well being - in this case in a mental health context. By creative practice we are refer to activities such as painting, performance and story telling. Thus we are interested in interrogating how such creative practice, and the sharing of creative practice output and experiences in the physical world and via digital media, might be helpful (or not) in processes of mutual recovery. In lay terms, we are interested in, for example, how (and if) the creation, sharing and discussion of a creative output (such as a painting) might improve various people's health and wellbeing.

Our project rests within a context of a continuing and growing burden of mental distress, where rather than viewing recovery as a cure or eradication of problems, it recognises the possibility of recovering a meaningful and more resilient life with or without ongoing symptoms or disabilities. At the same time, there are mounting concerns about whether mental health service staff themselves, and the great body of informal carers in the UK (6-7m) need to be 'recovered' and develop resilience respectively in increasingly threatening, production-line organisations or isolating and under-supported environments, which research suggests promote compassion depletion. Further, with respect to creative practice, to date, via the therapeutic logic of healthcare, the service user has been positioned solely as the beneficiary of professional and informal carer contributions in creating opportunities for this rather than having creative capacity themselves. Our research proposal offers a radical shift in vision in mental health care - that the reciprocal sharing of creative practice, in the physical world and via digital media, could transform how professionals, informal carers and service users work together and take new opportunities to build egalitarian, appreciative and substantively connected communities - resilient communities of mutual hope, compassion and solidarity.

Planned Impact

There is great urgency to improve interventions for mental health and wellbeing at a national and international level. In a period of very real economic challenges, there is a growing need to consider new approaches to advancing mental health and wellbeing for service users and for their hard-pressed, often emotionally drained informal and statutory carers. The focus on 'mutual recovery' is a potentially significant contribution in this context and marks an innovative adaptation to existing limited resources for mental health and wellbeing and one that challenges dividing logics and practices driven by dominant biomedical/ illness focus in society, and the resultant professional to service user dynamic of care and instrumental ways of managing care environments. The 'mutual recovery' initiative is connatural with the health humanities, bringing a wealth of experience, ideas and techniques for advancing mental health and wellbeing, enhancing connections between communities of arts and humanities scholars, mental health practitioners, third sector, informal carers and service users. It offers a radical new vision and method for effecting desirable, cost-effective and reciprocal supports across the practitioner/carer and service user communities. Moreover, the development of digital archives and disseminations of 'mutual recovery', congruent with the AHRC-funded International Health Humanities Network (IHHN) and forthcoming website will be especially welcome as the division of mental health care into separate communities of different professionals, statutory, private and voluntary providers overlaid by rapid organizational change and economic challenges mean that electronic forums for sharing ideas, experiences and good practice, and facilitating interdisciplinary collaborative work are more vital than ever before.
For those who plan and manage mental health care, or develop mental health and mental health workforce policy, the 'mutual recovery' initiative and digital outputs will provide a source of new ideas and inspiration, a valuable indicator of the activities already devised and being practiced and a radically new paradigm for advancing an exciting, reciprocal engagement between arts and humanities scholars, mental health practitioners/carers and service users.
At present, mental health practitioners, carers and service users may be isolated from the movement to engage with the arts and humanities, or not conceive the possibility of a shared benefit from these. The 'mutual recovery' project is conceived to promote knowledge dissemination and impact, as well as sharing and participation on a different level to the traditional, expert-to-patient framework.
The development of 'mutual recovery' for mental health and wellbeing through the arts and humanities has a good deal to contribute to the delivery of mental health care at all levels, increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy. The proposed innovation will play a key role in making the UK's research in 'recovery' in mental health more globally significant through its international platform. Researchers are increasingly keen to be able to show the value and impact of their work at both a national and international level. Practitioners are committed to improving their services and adopting healthier ways of working. Consumers of mental health are increasingly looking to contribute to service development as well as expanding horizons for recovery. The proposed project makes all these outcomes more feasible, at the same time enabling a radical new approach to connecting practitioner/carer and service user communities for mutual benefit in terms of mental health and wellbeing.


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Description This grant enabled the larger Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery £.15m programme which achieved multiple impacts.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education,Healthcare
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Large Grant
Amount £1,203,200 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/K003364/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2013 
End 04/2018