New AHRC Award to Engage Kent Communities in Conversations Around Mental Health

Sikh man and woman being interviewed

A research team at the Kent and Medway Medical School and University of Kent has been awarded  funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (ARHC) for their INTERACT study.

Partnering with specialist mental health provider Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) and  Turner Contemporary, the study will help better understand the mental health needs of local, underprivileged communities.

The interdisciplinary INTERACT team, with anthropologists, psychiatrists, drama therapists and media scholars, will ensure that members of Kent communities have an equal voice in the conversation around the future of mental healthcare and research. The INTERACT public engagement activities will maximise the involvement of mental health service users. Young people, new mothers, older adults, and migrants will be recruited through KMPT to participate in creative workshops, hosted at Turner Contemporary using ethnographic methods, to capture the lived experiences of community members. Insights will be disseminated through touring exhibitions, public talks, zines, podcasts, Tik-Tok videos, a policy brief and a journal article.

Professor Lisa Dikomitis, Principal Investigator of INTERACT, says:

“I am delighted to work with members of several Kent communities hardly reached by researchers. We urgently need to embed these often-unheard perspectives in our research and innovation work in mental healthcare. As the NHS celebrates its 75th birthday it is crucial that we continue to innovate, not for, but with community members. Our anthropological and creative research aligns well with the KMMS ethos of putting the needs of local, underprivileged communities first and conduct interdisciplinary research to improve mental health outcomes in Kent.”

Dr Afifa Qazi, KMPT’s Chief Medical Officer added:

“We are delighted to partner in this important project. Each year across the UK around 1 in 4 people will experience mental ill health, and over recent years we have seen a rising and changing demand for our services. We must continually move forward and work closely with our partners to respond to this. Making sure we fully understand the needs of our diverse communities, and work in collaboration with them to co-produce a shared vision for mental healthcare, is a vital part of our pledge to help our communities live well and tackle health inequalities in Kent.”

Ms Clarrie Wallis, Director Turner Contemporary Margate stated:

“We are delighted to foster ongoing collaborations and establish fresh connections with researchers from the new Kent and Medway Medical School and the University of Kent, alongside psychiatrists adept at engaging the public on mental healthcare. As a creative organisation, we firmly believe in the significance of participating in innovative, transdisciplinary endeavours that not only shed light on problems and challenges but also uncover solutions.”

INTERACT is one of ten projects supported by a £348,000 investment from UKRI AHRC to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the NHS. The projects all involve collaboration with new and diverse audiences whose voices are not often heard as part of national debates on health and social care. The aim is to help inform researchers, health practitioners, policymakers and the public about the future of care.