1BUILDING RESILIENCE THROUGH HERITAGE
The Building Resilience Through Heritage (BReaTHe) project looked at the challenge of conflict and diminished mental health in displaced communities with a focus on closed refugee camp settings and mixed communities in and around Azraq in Jordan. Known problem within such groups include inter-personal violence resulting from loss of personal value and identity. The team explored the use of co-produced Virtual Reality reconstructions of heritage sites as a means to: 1) grow community engagement (a technology-based hook), and along with discussing and incorporating intangible heritage (including food, music and dancing); 2) create a platform for sharing heritage values and identity within and between family and social units. This led to a cultural heritage festival.
The project found the “technological hook” had a desired effect with an approximately 400% increase in programme participation following the initial scoping workshop. This resulted in fruitful conversations leading to the identification of a range of heritage values (tangible and intangible) that were developed through further workshop activity with the participants, and showcased and celebrated by the community at the cultural heritage festival. Feedback from participants was positive, and included: creation of new friendship networks; a growth of mutual understanding between previously disparate groups and individuals; enabling conversations of previously undiscussed family history with children; and increase in the value of memory and identity. We perceive these as a corollary to well-being improvement and a pathway to reduced communal stress and conflict.
Dr Adrian Evans, Lecturer in Archaeology and Forensic Science, Dr Karina Croucher, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Prof Owen Green, Professor of International Development, and Prof Andrew Wilson, Chair of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences, University of Bradford, UK.
2MULTILINGUALISM AND MENTAL HEALTH
Multilingualism is an important component of culture and (intangible) heritage. However, training in mental health practice and theory, rooted as it is in a monolingual culture, has largely ignored multilingualism – both the challenges it poses and the opportunities it offers. As a result, multilingual clients are too often treated differently from monolingual clients in mental health practice. If we ignore the presence and potential of multilingualism, we risk not only overlooking multilingual clients’ identities and forms of emotional expression, but also perpetuating inequalities in access to mental health services. Therefore, it is useful to examine multilingualism, separately from culture, in a training context before integrating the learning more holistically into practice.
To fill this gap, we have created a free online training resource on multilingualism and mental health as part of the Pásalo project. Using this training resource, practitioners can:
- Become more aware of the ways in which multilingual clients and monolingual clients’ experiences are different and the relevance of those differences to mental health issues and therapeutic practice;
- Apply knowledge about linguistic justice, agency, privilege and power to psychological practice;
- Become more confident at working effectively with an interpreter and attending to the shifting dynamics of power in interpreter-mediated therapy;
- Become more confident in applying a multilingual therapeutic framework and using the resource of a client’s and/or a practitioner’s multilingualism as a therapeutic asset.
Dr Beverley Costa, Senior Practitioner Fellow, Birkbeck University of London, UK.
3CULTURAL HERITAGE, MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING IN KERALA, INDIA
Mental health interventions are typically dominated by deficit-based models of theory and practice. Supporting literacy and awareness requires a shift toward more positive, ability-centred and culturally appropriate approaches. Cultural heritage practices shape the way we think and influence our help seeking for mental health issues. A mental health literacy model focussed solely on medical understandings of the subject is missing important factors, particularly within Indian society, such as cultural, religious and spiritual beliefs and their attendant practices and healing regimes. Our project ‘MeHeLP India’ explored how cultural practices influence mental health, well-being and resilience by focusing on cultural and religious belief systems and traditional practices in urban, rural and tribal communities in Kerala, India. We used applied theatre and storytelling to best engage with Kerala’s communities to discuss mental ill-health and to examine how cultural heritage and cultural practices influence and impact on mental health help seeking.
Our findings highlight that we should shift our thinking to a more pluralistic approach of mental health literacy, which people may deploy differently depending on the perceived nature of the problem and their position in the social and cultural structure. Bridging the gap between scientific and cultural approaches to mental health treatment involves mobilising and synthesising the multiple mental health literacies which in turn may relieve stigma and enable access to mental health services. Whilst a medical model may appeal to health professionals, other groups may adhere to spiritual or self-help techniques (e.g. yoga, spirituality, cultural customs, exercise and meditation) due to their ready availability and the ease with which they can be integrated into existing cultural beliefs and lifestyles.
Prof. Raghu Raghavan, Mary Seacole Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.