Image shown: Artist Jo Nichols (centre) working with the Arts + Minds Time to Dance group. Photo by Ger McCarthy.

Artist Jo Nichols (centre) working with the Arts + Minds Time to Dance group in Cork. Photo by Ger McCarthy.

Image shown: Arts + Minds music workshop. Photo by Ger McCarthy.

Image shown: Rudie Pamer

John Delaney


Arts + Minds participants include mental health service users and staff from:

  • Cúnamh Day Hospital / Day Centre, Macroom
  • Mahon Blackrock Community Mental Health Service
  • South Lee Mental Health Unit, Cork University Hospital
  • St Michael’s Unit, Mercy University Hospital
  • St Stephen’s Hospital, Glanmire
  • Togher Ballyphehane Community Mental Health Service


Arts + Minds aims to:

  • enhance the health and wellbeing of mental health service users through high quality engagement with the arts
  • facilitate mental health service users to participate fully in the cultural life of their community
  • challenge the stigma faced by mental health service users
  • enhance the healthcare working environment
  • enable partnership between mental health service users, health and arts professionals, to develop high quality programmes informed by national policy and the latest research
  • promote the value of the arts within mental healthcare


Arts + Minds works in partnership with professional artists and arts organisations across six mental health settings in Cork City and County. Between 2008 and 2012 the group have delivered almost 100 projects. The majority of projects are participatory in nature and result in performances, publications, exhibitions and other events. Some projects are collective involving all or a number of the six mental health settings; others take place at individual sites. Many projects include staff participation.

World Mental Health Day / Week is an important focal point in the Arts + Minds calendar and provides an opportunity for participants from all six settings to showcase work, highlight issues, network, socialise and celebrate achievements.

Highlights include, The Haiku Project, which was facilitated by creative writer Denise Hall and took place in five mental health settings. 76 haiku poems were created by participants and a specially designed leaflet was launched by Cllr Kieran McCarthy, Cork City Council, at an Arts + Minds event on World Mental Health Day in 2010.

On World Mental Health Day in 2011, The Unfold Project screened five new short animation films. The project was facilitated by visual artist Julie Forrester and developed by three mental health settings in partnership with the Crawford Art Gallery. A short audio/visual piece entitled Flow, was also shown for the first time at this event. Flow includes the voice of and music created by participants in collaboration with musicians Kevin O’Shanahan and Caoimhe Conlon, Music Alive.

On World Mental Health Day 2012, new Arts + Minds dance group, Time to Dance, performed two new dance pieces at an event in Millennium Hall, Cork. Time to Dance is led by dance artist Jo Nichols and involves three mental health settings.

Arts + Minds is managed by a steering group comprised of HSE mental health staff, a mental health service user, nursing student, and a representative of the Irish Advocacy Network. The group is supported through the HSE Cork Arts and Health Programme and by arts and health specialist Ann O’Connor.

Evaluation Methodology

Arts + Minds creates regular opportunities for review and evaluation within each project. A project execution plan (PEP) is agreed by all partners in advance which includes, project aims and objectives, timeframe, budget etc. Depending on the length of the project the PEP is reviewed mid way and again at the end of the project; achievements, challenges and lessons learned are discussed and recorded. Each project also has a logbook available at all workshops; project participants, mental health staff and artists are encouraged to include feedback about what is working well and what could be done better. Learning continually informs future planning.

Arts + Minds projects have also been independently evaluated. In October 2012 Minister Kathleen Lynch launched Beyond Diagnosis – the transformative potential of the arts in mental health recovery. Beyond Diagnosis includes evaluation of three Arts + Minds projects, by Lydia Sapouna and Rudie Pamer, University College Cork. In 2008, Mike White, University of Durham, evaluated an Arts + Minds music project that took place in five mental health settings, Ceol le Chéile / Music Together.

Evaluation Outcomes

Beyond Diagnosis (L Sapouna, 2012) found that Arts + Minds projects contribute to conditions conducive to mental health recovery through the ‘discovery of personal resourcefulness, meaning and growth, within and beyond the limits imposed by the ‘mental illness’’ (MHC, 2008). Arts + Minds projects also facilitate conditions for wellbeing and social inclusion, enabling participants to take on meaningful and satisfying social roles in their communities in line with the national mental health strategy A Vision for Change (DoH&C, 2006) and A Recovery Approach within Irish Mental Health Services (MHC, 2008).

Comments from mental health service users, staff and artists include:

‘It’s not about the condition, the mental condition, it’s about tapping into creativity… spontaneity and fun… and all of those things that make us human.’ (A+M artist)

‘It’s different because you are not talking about your illness, you are not discussing that, you are not discussing your medication. You are just like any other person when you are in there, you are just having a laugh and…just like any other person.’ (participant)

‘I didn’t feel like a client’ (participant)

‘I realised I had imagination’ (participant)

‘It got me thinking about when I do leave here, that I really do want to get back into music and learn an instrument.’ (participant)

‘If I can do that in the music group, maybe I can do a little more outside…’ (participant)

‘What is achieved in the arts project is the start of a bigger process, of walking a bit taller, of everybody realising that people can do things in their lives.’ (artist)

‘Sometimes staff think patients, because they are patients, don’t have the ability or skill that they do.… it’s just amazing to see people with that [creative] ability and you would not see that unless they were in the music group.’ (staff member)

‘… service users see me differently as well. It’s all so positive.’ (staff member)

‘… that’s far more beneficial than antidepressant medication. Did I just say that?’ (staff member)

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch said  ‘it is clear from Beyond Diagnosis, that the arts can add value to current mental health service provision and that it has the potential to be a vital and revitalizing component of a good quality and progressive, recovery orientated service’.

Documentation and Dissemination

Regular reports are prepared for funders and HSE personnel. Arts + Minds also present at relevant seminars and conferences. When appropriate, press releases are circulated in advance of events. Arts + Minds has received coverage in local press and radio. In October 2012, an article about the Beyond Diagnosis report Drawing on art for recovery was included in the health supplement of The Irish Times. Arts + Minds developed its own website in 2012 .


Crawford Art Gallery
HSE Cork Arts and Health Programme
University College Cork
Camden Palace Hotel Arts Group

Project dates

Since 2008

Lead organisation

Arts + Minds

Funded By

Cork City Council, Crawford Art Gallery, Friends Groups, Health Services National Partnership Forum, HSE Cork Arts & Health Programme, National Lottery


Ben Girling, Caoimhe Conlon, Charlotte Donovan, Denise Hall, JO Nichols, Julie Forrester, Kevin O'Shanahan, Liz Powell, Marie Brett, Nico Browne, Pat Speight


Creative writing, Dance, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts

Healthcare context(s)

Mental Health



Web link


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