New hybrid exhibition on mental health and racial justice co-launched by Words of Colour
A new 12-month hybrid programme and exhibition championing community and lived experience narratives to tackle the overrepresentation of black and South Asian men detained under the Mental Health Act in Leeds has been launched by Words of Colour and Synergi-Leeds.
Remembering What’s Forgotten will draw on 50 years of unsung community initiatives, allyship and knowledge to reimagine a more inclusive and equitable mental health system, guided by racial justice.
Using creative and heritage methods, from film, audio, and poetry to archive, co-production and photovoice techniques, the digital and in-person exhibition will feature the narratives of 60 contributors supported by a curated timeline.
Funded by Leeds & York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and supported by Leeds City Council and Forum Central, the aim is for the co-produced programme to act as a catalyst for better mental health experiences and outcomes for black and minority ethnic communities amid enduring statistics which show that:
• Black people are four times more likely than white people to be detained under the Mental Health Act.
• Black and minority ethnic people are 40% more likely to access mental health care via the criminal justice system than white people.
• Black and minority ethnic people are less likely to access primary care support, through their GP, and more likely to end up in crisis care.
Joy Francis, Words of Colour’s Executive Director and Remembering What’s Forgotten Project Manager, said: “It’s time to centre the undervalued legacy of community organisations, carers and lived experience activists. Oral history and creative outlets have long served as tools of resilience amid generational trauma, institutional gaslighting, racism and the absence of culturally relevant and co-produced mental health services. Remembering What’s Forgotten is a step in the right direction as one option for change and accountability.”
Sharon Prince, Deputy Director Psychological Professions, Leeds & York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Co-Lead of Synergi-Leeds, said: “The Synergi-Leeds network believes that knowledge which resides in the community isn’t often privileged in regional and national initiatives, leading the learning to be lost and sometimes repackaged by mainstream services as ‘new knowledge’. Remembering What’s Forgotten will put the spotlight on the histories, people, communities and organisations instrumental in championing mental health equity in Leeds.”
Sara Munro, CEO, Leeds & York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Racial injustice, especially when you look at the overrepresentation of black people detained under the Mental Health Act, isn’t new. We also know that for the diverse communities we serve it can often feel like ‘here we go again’ when statutory agencies announce another ‘initiative’ to tackle racial injustice. Our communities have walked the talk so many times and it is for this reason Remembering What’s Forgotten has a crucial role to play.”
Victoria Eaton, Director of Public Health, Leeds City Council, said: “It is essential to listen to and amplify the voices of lived experience, understand in more depth what contributes to differences in mental health outcomes but also recognise the assets already present in our communities through individuals, community groups and grassroots organisations. Remembering What’s Forgotten will serve as a catalyst for further change and advocacy efforts aimed at addressing ethnic inequalities in mental health.”
Working with co-producing partners Touchstone, Heritage Corner and Artistic Director Khadijah Ibrahiim (Leeds Young Authors), the programme will host focus groups for carers and service users, appoint a lived experience poet in residence and provide two lived experience curator internships. Former Leeds United footballer, BBC broadcaster and mental health advocate Sanchez Payne has signed up as a project ally.
Joe Williams, Founder/Director, Heritage Corner, added: “Remembering What’s Forgotten is a helpful title. I develop history walks, including for the David Oluwale Memorial Association, and having the Yinka Shonibare Hibiscus Rising sculpture honouring David, is all about remembering. We have no wish to retraumatise ourselves by remembering, but we have to remember to not repeat mistakes and learn from challenges. We have to remember how to stay healthy, perhaps to recall those times when we once knew, and build on it.”
Remembering What’s Forgotten will be launched as a hybrid exhibition, online and in person, in Leeds from October 2024, and will be dedicated to the late Heather Nelson (1965 – 2023), CEO and Founder of the Black Health Initiative.