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Should mental health services fund arts projects in times of austerity?

 “Should mental health services fund arts projects in times of austerity?” That’s what someone asked me recently when they saw an advert for the Happy Soul Festival. Well, naturally, I replied “yes”. 

This year’s free festival celebrates black and minority ethnic artforms exploring themes around mental health and wellbeing. The festival, which spans six London boroughs, is supported by Fanon Southside Partnership. 

Nicholas Campbell-Watts, director of mental health services at Southside Partnership, believes that being part of local community projects like this is an essential part of the services they offer. 

Campbell-Watts said: “Mental health is a difficult subject for black, minority and ethnic communities to discuss. By putting ourselves out into the communities we support through festivals like Happy Soul we can address this taboo through the medium of the arts. People are more willing to discuss a film or song which tackles mental health issues than they are to talk about themselves. But it is a step in the right direction. 

“We have to open up the subject of mental health and talk about it in a way which is non-stigmatising. The Happy Soul Festival events are interesting, thought-provoking and fun, but their main purpose is to encourage more people, who need help with mental health problems, to come to us for support and recovery.”  

The Happy Soul Festival runs until June 10. 

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