Guislain Museum. Photo credit: Karin Borghouts.

The second Culture & Mental Health international conference takes place in Ghent, Belgium on 28 and 29 November 2024. The conference seeks to promote learning, discussion and debate around cultural interventions aimed at improving the wellbeing of people recovering from mental health difficulties or people in vulnerable situations. The focus of this edition is on supporting the mental wellbeing of forcibly displaced people through art and culture. 

The conference aims to share experiences, practices and knowledge about the importance and impact of the arts, reading, heritage and creativity on improving the mental health, wellbeing and resilience of refugees.

The conference partners are Dr Guislain Museum, iedereen leest en Red Star Line Museum & Solentra, in co-operation with University Ghent Social Work and Social Pedagogy, University College London Arts & Sciences and FARO.

Conference strands
The overarching theme of this conference is to explore the role of culture and art in promoting mental health and wellbeing among people who have been forcibly displaced. Within this theme there are three key strands around which all the contributions for this conference will be structured in the programme:

1). Lived experience of displacement: The conference organisers are looking for arts, reading, heritage or creativity-based offerings, projects and engagements that:

  • are led by, co-created with or delivered in partnership refugees;
  • reflect on the lived experience of refugees;
  • are suitable for refugee children or young adults.

2). Communities and resilience: There is a strong relation between mental health and social inclusion. Being part of a community allows for meaningful connections to take shape and can help foster a sense of belonging and acceptance. Connections between newly arrived communities and more established residents at the local level, help to increase understanding and create more resilient communities. The conference organisers are looking for arts, reading, heritage or creativity-based offerings, projects and engagements that:

  • are community-based and/or are oriented at the neighborhood level;
  • center community voices, lived experiences and histories;
  • highlight the experience of the hosting society in order to obtain a nuanced picture and also to contextualize initiatives;
  • explore infrastructures of community care and support;
  • demonstrate creative ways that public bodies such as libraries, museums and arts/cultural initiatives play a role in bringing about greater social inclusion and cohesion.

3). Place and language: The conference organisers are looking for arts, reading, heritage or creativity-based offerings, projects and engagements that:

  • demonstrate the role of cultural projects or arts-based services in tackling information poverty;
  • engage various modes of storytelling involving first languages and multilingualism and craft narratives that center lived experience and work towards dispelling dis/misinformation;
  • explore other modes for self-expression and communication that move beyond spoken and written language to bring about greater participation;
  • co-create safe and brave spaces with refugees to explore stories and heritage in an empowering way  acknowledging feelings of pride and commitment  (in order to connect to the new environment).

Call for contributions 
Proposals are sought from people working on creative, art-based, innovative or out-of-the-box projects, connected to one of the strands outlined above, in a research or operational capacity that can contribute to this conference. You can contribute through formal presentations or workshops. The contributions are to be given in English.

For information on presentation and workshop formats and to access the online submission form, visit

Deadline: 30 March 2024

The Dr Guislain Museum is housed in the oldest mental asylum in Belgium, which dates back to 1857, surrounded by a mental health hospital. This museum aims to break down the many prejudices that still define what is mental illness and what is ‘normal’.


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