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Exploring mental health and wellbeing at Being Human 2023

Many of this year’s Being Human Festival activities will use creative ways to explore our relationship with mental health and wellbeing. 

Exploring mental health and wellbeing at Being Human 2023

Humanities researchers in the UK are developing new approaches and methods that seek to better understand and improve our health and wellbeing. 

From discussing the lived experience of mental illness to delving into the personal and cultural significance of a good night’s sleep, such research is playing a vital role in taking on some of our greatest healthcare challenges.   

Some of this extraordinary research will be on show during Being Human Festival, which takes place in venues across the UK from 9-18 November. Cabarets, exhibitions, musical performances and craft workshops will put our health and wellbeing centre stage and inspire important discussions about what it means to be healthy. 

Let’s take a look at a selection of these events!

Expressing mental ill health through music 

Articulating our mental health can be difficult. Words often fail to capture how we feel, and it can be tricky to accurately describe various states of depression or mental illness.  

A live performance organised by researchers at King’s College London will uncover the ways in which music might bridge this communication gap and more expressively represent our inner states. 

Scoring Mental Health will feature evocative music that has been co-created by people with experience of mental ill health and the composer Gawain Hewitt. This powerful live performance will trace the ways in which music can communicate those difficult to describe feelings, such as distress, isolation and mental exhaustion. The music will be followed by a discussion with Gawain, researchers from King's College London, and artists involved in the project. 

For more information about the project, and a taster of the music, check out BBC Radio 3’s recent programme on the project, "Scoring Mental Health".

Sleep and mental wellbeing 

Our relationship to sleep can have a profound impact on our mental wellbeing. Some have suggested that we are undergoing a ‘sleep crisis’, with sleep deprivation and sleeping disorders on the rise.  How can we improve our relationship with sleep and better understand the way it impacts on our lives? 

The Reimagining Sleep project, which is run by Northumbria University in partnership with The Sleep Charity, aims to increase public understanding of sleep disorders and their impact, and foster wellbeing through creative responses to sleep. 

The Reimagining Sleep Café will include a guided tour of a new online exhibition that has emerged from the project. A creative workshop will follow that explores how our bodies and minds react to sounds and develop visual responses to meditative soundscapes. 

A black and white illustration, with an eye in the centre with a triangle at the centre of the eye, surrounded by grains, leaves, circular patterns, and 4 rectangular abstract images.
'Reimagining Sleep Café', 18 November - Image: Chiara Dellerba

Life is a cabaret 

In Durham, researchers at the Institute for Medical Humanities will take to the stage for an evening of live performance, poetry, stories, comedy, music, and chaos. In partnership with RT Projects, a local mental health arts charity, researchers will explore a range of health and wellbeing issues and present research in a way that you’ve never seen before – with added jazz hands! 

The performances will consider the ways in which poetry and music can help us to understand our lived experiences. Responding to the 2023 Being Human Festival theme of ‘Rhyme and Reason’, academics, musicians, and people with lived experience of illness will share their insights into what ‘reason’ means when talking about mental health. Find out more.

Historic remedies in Edinburgh 

Edinburgh’s Alice Thornton’s Café will take a step back in time and reveal 17th century approaches to health and wellbeing. 

Alice Thornton was a British writer whose books offer a fascinating insight into gentry life in the 17thcentury, at a time of civil war and plague. 

Researchers on the Alice Thornton’s Books project at The University of Edinburgh will be on hand to tell you about Thornton’s rediscovered manuscripts, and what they reveal about her attitudes towards family, faith, plants and health - including some very unusual ailments and cures! 

There will be herbal remedy-themed crafts for all ages, and you’ll be shown around Starbank Park’s many secret corners, including some brand new 17th-century themed planting.

Find out more

These are just a few of the many  festival events looking at health, care and wellbeing. Take a look at some of the other events exploring this theme. Being Human Festival 2023 runs from 9 to 18 November.