University of Dundee University of Dundee
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25 May 2005

FILM LAUNCH - "Recovering Lives: Mental health, gardening and the arts"

A new film which shows how involvement in gardening and the arts can help improve the mental health of people who have had severe and enduring problems will be shown for the first time at Dundee Contemporary Arts.

The film, "Recovering Lives: Mental health, gardening and the arts" has been made by Dr Hester Parr, of the University of Dundee, and LUNA, an arts and mental health group associated with Art Angel, Dundee.

The film-makers from LUNA are themselves people with mental health issues who have benefited from their participation in the arts, and some of the people behind the camera also feature in the short film.

The collaboration is part of a three-year research fellowship on mental health and social inclusion currently being undertaken by Dr Parr, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

"There is great value in activities such as gardening and the arts for people with severe and enduring mental health problems," said Dr Parr. "Not only in therapeutic terms, but in helping them integrate into their communities and challenge stigmatising attitudes to mental ill health. Some of the projects we have looked at operate gardens right in the heart of the community in which people work positively for well-being. Artistic projects also enable people with mental health problems to be valued for their contribution to their local cultural heritage."

The film will be followed by a discussion reflecting on issues raised by the film and about innovative and creative approaches to improving mental health. Participants in this will include Fiona Thackeray (Thrive, Scotland) and Paul Murray (Scottish Arts Council).

The film has been supported by the Scottish Executive's National Programme for Improving Mental Health and Well-being and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).


LUNA is affiliated to Art Angel and is an arts-based mental health project run for and by people with experience of mental health problems. Est. 1997, over 120 people have contributed to LUNA projects. There are 10 core members and they have worked with a range of individuals and organisations. In particular they have had several short films commissioned by NHS Tayside, Tayside Police, Western Isles Association for Mental Health, Tayside Young Carers, and Dundee Rep Theatre. Their films have been shown in the Dundee Contemporary Arts Cinema and have been used for teaching mental health nurses at Abertay and Dundee Universities.

The Art Angel Project evolved from the six year ground breaking Arts Advocacy Project based at Dundee Rep Theatre. Art Angel provides unique opportunities for people with experience of mental health difficulties to engage in a wide range of arts based activities as a means of self-expression and empowerment. Art Angel provides a creative platform for people to express their views, ideas and experiences in a non-clinical and friendly environment, building confidence and self-esteem. Through high profile exhibitions, performances and publications participants have created a powerful voice that raises awareness of mental health issues and combats stigma in the wider community.

Art Angel is funded primarily by NHS Tayside and the Dundee City Council Rengeration fund, but has also received funding from The Scottish Arts Council, Awards for All, Dundee Business Access Fund, Social Inclusion Partnership and The Scottish Executive for one off projects.

For more information contact Rosie Sommerton, Art Angel, Dudhope Arts Centre, 5 St Mary Place, Dundee DD1 5RB, 01382 228383

Dr Hester Parr is a Reader in Human Geography at the University of Dundee and has over 10 years experience in researching social dimensions of mental health and illness with an emphasis on everyday community living for people who have experienced severe and enduring mental health problems. She is currently funded by an Economic and Social Research Council Fellowship (ESRC RES-000-27-0043) to engage in a programme of research about mental health and experiences of social inclusion. This programme includes using qualitative methods to investigate how participation in natural (gardening); artistic (visual and performance arts) and technological (the internet) spaces might be beneficial in terms of achieving social stability for this group. For more information see

The National Programme for Improving Mental Health exists to support work that will help improve mental health and well-being for everyone living in Scotland and improve the quality of life and social inclusion for people who experience mental health problems.

The programme's four main aims are to:

  • raise public awareness of mental health and mental illness and promote positive mental health and emotional well-being

  • eliminate the stigma of mental ill-health and the discrimination that people with mental health problems can encounter

  • prevent suicide and help cope with the aftermath of suicide

  • promote and support people's recovery from mental illness

There are six priority areas for action:

  • improving infant mental health (the early years)

  • improving mental health of children and young people

  • improving mental health and wellbeing in employment and working life

  • improving mental health and wellbeing in later life>

  • improving community mental health and wellbeing

  • improving the ability of public services to act in support of the promotion of mental health and the prevention of mental illness

By Roddy Isles, Head of Press 01382 344910, out of hours: 07968298585,