Tweede editie van internationale conferentie 'Culture & Mental Health'

(English text below)

Van 28 tot 29 november 2024 loopt de internationale conferentie 'Culture & Mental Health' in Gent. Deze conferentie - een organisatie van Iedereen Leest, Museum Dr. Guislain, Red Star Line Museum en Solentra - heeft tot doel de kennis en het debat te bevorderen rond culturele interventies die gericht zijn op het verbeteren van het welzijn van mensen die herstellen van geestelijke gezondheidsproblemen of mensen in kwetsbare situaties.

© Simon Bequoye en Iedereen Leest

Twee jaar na de vorige editie kunnen professionals op 28 en 29 november 2024 opnieuw bijeenkomen tijdens de internationale conferentie Culture for Mental Health. De conferentie zoomt in op het belang van culturele interventies - zoals werken met boeken en verhalen, of samen lezen - voor het welbevinden van mensen die herstellende zijn van mentale gezondheidsproblemen, maar ook mensen in kwetsbare situaties. Verschillende onderzoeken wijzen immers op het belang van lezen voor ons welzijn, zowel bij jongeren als bij volwassenen.

Het overkoepelende thema van deze conferentie is de rol van kunst en cultuur onderzoeken bij de ondersteuning van de geestelijke gezondheid en het welzijn van vluchtelingen. Binnen dit thema staan drie hoofdlijnen gedefinieerd waarrond alle bijdragen voor deze conferentie in het programma zullen worden gestructureerd:

  • Ervaringen rond ontheemding
  • Gemeenschappen en veerkracht
  • Omgeving en taal
© Simon Bequoye en Iedereen Leest

Oproep tot bijdrages

Organisatoren Iedereen Leest, Museum Dr. Guislain, Red Star Line Museum en Solentra zijn op zoek naar voorstellen van mensen en organisaties die werken aan creatieve projecten die inspelen op de hierboven vermelde hoofdlijnen. Je kan een bijdrage aan de conferentie leveren via een presentatie of een workshop. Voorstellen kunnen de vorm aannemen van presentaties of workshops. Voor een presentatie wordt er 30 minuten voorzien, workshops duren een volledige sessie (90 minuten).

De einddatum voor het indienen van een voorstel is 30 maart 2024. Het programmacomité buigt zich over alle ingezonden voorstellen. In mei kom je te weten of je voorstel werd weerhouden. Mag je een workshop of presentatie houden op de conferentie, dan ontvang je 1 gratis ticket.

Omwille van het internationale aspect van de conferentie is de voertaal het Engels. Voorstellen tot bijdrages moeten dus ook in het Engels opgesteld worden. Hieronder volgt de aankondiging van de conferentie in het Engels, met daarbij verdere informatie over de call for contributions en een link om een voorstel in te dienen.

International conference 'Culture & Mental Health'

The second Culture & Mental Health international conference will take place in Ghent, Belgium on 28 and 29 November 2024. This conference seeks to promote learning, discussion and debate around cultural interventions aimed at improving the wellbeing of people recovering from mental health difficulties or people in vulnerable situations. The focus of this edition is on supporting the mental wellbeing of forcibly displaced people through art and culture.

In a report in 2022 the EU and WHO call for support for the mental wellbeing of forcibly displaced people through art and culture : “People displaced because of natural disasters, persecution, conflict, generalised violence or human rights violations invariably experience significant loss, physical hardships and other stressors that can lead to psychological distress. A large body of evidence shows how forcibly displaced people contribute positively to society. This potential can be further enhanced by ensuring that they are in good physical and mental health. Therefore, according to the report, it is important to support the arts, as investing in the field is an investment in the mental, physical and social health of forcibly displaced people.”

This conference wants to bring together individuals from the public, academic, third sector and voluntary sectors, to share experiences, practices and knowledge about the importance and impact of the arts, reading, heritage and creativity on improving mental health, wellbeing and resilience of refugees.

© Simon Bequoye & Iedereen Leest

A symbolic venue

The Dr Guislain Museum is an obvious choice as a venue for this conference. Housed in the oldest mental asylum in Belgium, which dates back to 1857, surrounded by a mental health hospital. This museum aims to break down the many prejudices that still define what is mental illness and what is ‘normal’.

More than a conference

A journey to the amazing city of Ghent for this conference is more than worthwhile. But as an extra we’re going to offer the participants exclusive pre-conference events organised in unique locations in Ghent and an exciting social programme.

3 Strands

The overarching theme of this conference is to explore the role of culture and art in promoting mental health and wellbeing among people who have been forcibly displaced. Within this theme we have defined three key strands around which all the contributions for this conference will be structured in the programme.

Lived experience of displacement

Individuals who experience forced displacement navigate a range of challenging experiences that can impact their mental health; from being forced to leave their homes, embark on long and exhausting journeys to navigate complex asylum processes and settle into new cultures. Yet, despite all these challenges, they demonstrate a tremendous amount of resilience to rebuild their lives anew. Refugees' contributions to society and culture should be widely recognised and celebrated.

We are looking for arts, reading, heritage or creativity-based offerings, projects and engagements that:
  • are led by, co-created with or delivered in partnership refugees;
  • reflect on the lived experience of refugees;
  • are suitable for refugee children or young adults.

Communities and resilience

There is a strong relation between mental health and social inclusion. Being part of a community allows for meaningful connections to take shape and can help foster a sense of belonging and acceptance. Connections between newly arrived communities and more established residents at the local level, help to increase understanding and create more resilient communities.

We are looking for arts, reading, heritage or creativity-based offerings, projects and engagements that:
  • are community-based and/or are oriented at the neighborhood level;
  • center community voices, lived experiences and histories;
  • highlight the experience of the hosting society in order to obtain a nuanced picture and also to contextualize initiatives;
  • explore infrastructures of community care and support;
  • demonstrate creative ways that public bodies such as libraries, museums and arts/cultural initiatives play a role in bringing about greater social inclusion and cohesion.

Place and language

Language can be seen to be both a key and barrier to navigating a new environment. Language is a central aspect to one’s identity and culture. It is also an important factor in navigating daily life, accessing services and information. Learning a new language can often be a challenge, but also necessary to gain a shared language for connecting with others and self-expression. Yet, language can also be mobilised to give rise to hostile rhetoric against refugees and newly arrived communities.

We are looking for arts, reading, heritage or creativity-based offerings, projects and engagements that:
  • demonstrate the role of cultural projects or arts-based services in tackling information poverty;
  • engage various modes of storytelling involving first languages and multilingualism and craft narratives that center lived experience and work towards dispelling dis/misinformation;
  • explore other modes for self-expression and communication that move beyond spoken and written language to bring about greater participation;
  • co-create safe and brave spaces with refugees to explore stories and heritage in an empowering way  acknowledging feelings of pride and commitment  (in order to connect to the new environment).

Call for contributions

We are looking for proposals from people working on creative, art-based, innovative or out-of-the-box projects, connected to one of the strands outlined above, in a research or operational capacity that can contribute to this conference. You can contribute through formal presentations or workshops. The contributions are to be given in English.

Paper is presented in a presentation that uses reference to visual aids in PowerPoint or PDF format. The papers will be put together in thematic sessions. A session consists of a minimum of 3 papers, with the possibility of questions and discussion at the end of each session

A workshop offers a practical, hands-on demonstration or training in a particular method or aspect of interventions. Workshops are to be given during a single session of 90 minutes. 

You can submit a proposal for a presentation or workshop (maximum 300 words) until 30 March 2024.

All proposals will be reviewed by the conference programme committee that consists of an international panel of experts coming from different fields and people with lived experience. We expect to inform all those who have put forward a proposal the result of their deliberations in May 2024. Accepted proposals receive a free full ticket to attend the conference.


Dr Guislain Museum, Iedereen Leest, Red Star Line Museum and Solentra
In cooperation with:
University Ghent Social Work and Social Pedagogy, University College London Arts & Sciences and FARO (Flemish interface for cultural heritage)

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