Time to Talk: Young people bust mental health myths through art

art used to bust mental health myths

Does everyone experience mental health issues in the same way? If mental health conditions run in your family, are you destined from birth to develop them? Are mental health problems a snowflake generation issue? These are all mental health myths that are busted in the first National Gallery mental health awareness audio tour, sponsored by UKRI’s Medical Research Council.

The audio tour runs until 10 April 2020 and was developed with the National Gallery Young Producers, researchers from King’s College London, the McPin Foundation, and young people with lived experience of mental health issues.

The audio tour, which can be accessed for free via a smartphone, was created through workshops with 16-25 year-olds and allows visitors to view one of the UK’s most famous and established art collections through the lens of mental health. Looking at works by Van Gogh, Cima, Crivelli and Joseph Wright of Derby as well as the Gallery’s architecture and figures from its Portico entrance mosaic flooring, such as Virginia Woolf and Churchill, the tour tackles mental health myths head on and includes young people talking about their own mental health experiences.

Dr Helen Fisher, project leader from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience said: “Today (6 February) is Time to Talk day, and it’s never been more important to look at how we challenge long held stigmatising views about people with mental health conditions and be more open to talking about our own mental health and wellbeing. My research focuses on why young people develop mental health problems and how we can prevent them from doing so. We know from young people themselves that they struggle to talk to others about their mental health because of the stigma that still exists in society today. That’s why it’s been so great to work with the National Gallery and young people to use art to get visitors to think about mental health in a different way and start talking about this important topic.”

Top myths busted in the tour include:

MYTH: Developing severe mental health problems is destined from birth.

FALSE: Although our genes may play a role, mental health problems often arise from a combination of factors from our biological makeup to the environment we live in which is often different for each individual.

MYTH People with mental health problems have them for life – they never get better

FALSE: It is not a foregone conclusion that someone will be affected for the rest of their life. Many people make a full recovery, while others may experience reoccurrences of their difficulties, and some may continue to have problems. Research suggests that providing an individual with the support and help they need as early as possible can improve the chances of them making both a clinical and personal recovery.

MYTH: Everyone experiences mental health problems in the same way

FALSE: Diagnoses of mental health problems are made based on clusters of symptoms and people with the same diagnosis, such as depression for example, can have quite different combinations of symptoms. Every person’s experiences of mental health are different.

MYTH: Mental health problems are a young people’s thing – young people are more sensitive these days

FALSE: Mental health problems have existed as long as humans have and are not a new phenomenon. Older and younger people generally experience similar mental health problems. However, over the past decade, people have become more comfortable in talking about their mental health which may make it appear that such problems are a recent invention and more common than previously.

The tour is available for free at The National Gallery until 10th April 2020. It can be accessed via the internet browser on a smartphone here. Find out more on The National Gallery website.

To read more information, click here.

The Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health.

MRC [Medical Research Council]