Edge Hill University, in collaboration with the Jameel Arts & Health Lab, secures record £2.5m from UK government for children’s arts and mental health project

Liverpool, England
  • The £2.5 million funding boost is one of the biggest-ever UK government research grants for arts and health research.
  • Arts4Us, led by Edge Hill University in collaboration with the Jameel Arts & Health Lab and partners, will advance arts-based mental health therapies for children and young people.
  • The National Health Service, which is a partner in the project, will leverage Arts4Us to scale up adoption.

Edge Hill University’s Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing, in collaboration with the Jameel Arts & Health Lab and the World Health Organisation (WHO), have secured one of the largest research grants ever awarded in the United Kingdom for arts therapies. The funded project, Arts4Us, will bring together under one digital platform best practice in arts therapies supporting youth mental health, making it easier for young people and their families to find the crucial help they need.  

Professor Vicky Karkou, director of the Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing at Edge Hill University, is leading the collaborative enterprise with the Jameel Arts & Health Lab and more than 50 partners engaged, including academic institutions, National Health Service (NHS) trusts, schools and community organisations in the north-west of England.

The Arts4Us interactive platform will be co-developed with 9-13 year-olds, encouraging them to develop skills around how to access and maximise the benefits of arts activities that support their mental health. NHS services will also be able to use the digital platform to signpost patients to support, building collaborations across community partners and healthcare in the north-west of England with an aim to scale up the project in subsequent years.

Professor Vicky Karkou, director of the Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing, Edge Hill University, said: “One in five children and young people in the UK are struggling with their mental health as they transition from childhood to adolescence. We know that the services available do not cover their needs. Arts4Us aims to change that. We want to ensure children and young people will be able to access the mental health support they need regardless of where they live.”

Focused on overlooked and underserved communities, the Jameel Arts & Health Lab – a collaboration between WHO, New York University, Community Jameel and CULTURUNNERS – coordinates and amplifies scientific research into the effectiveness of the arts in improving health and well-being to drive policy implementation across 193 United Nations member states.

Dr Nils Fietje, co-director of the Jameel Arts & Health Lab and research officer at WHO, said: “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.”

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) awarded Arts4Us £2.5 million in the third phase of its 'Mobilising community assets to tackle health inequalities' programme. The funding boost is a record-breaking success for Edge Hill: the sum is the largest single research grant ever awarded to the university. The project will create 11 new appointments, offering exciting new opportunities for graduates and boosting skills in the region, at Edge Hill, the University of Liverpool and the University of Salford.

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