thinking about well-being

7 June 2020

I spent the whole day in my head says Mac Miller on ‘Good news’ (Circles, released 2020).  Since mid-March, probably many people have felt a bit like they are living in their heads. I know I have.  The casual and spontaneous interactions suddenly stopped.  Everything became strange, planned and yet unplanned. And accessed through a screen.

We don’t really know what the impact of all of this will be on people’s mental health in the long term. There was a lot of anxiety in the early days about the suddenness of the unknown and perhaps now this has shifted into a larger anxiety about the future, about the global recession that is going to hit hard.

When all of this came tumbling down in March, there was a lot of care expressed between strangers and colleagues, which was a lovely response to a dramatic and sudden change in lifestyle for us all. I’m not sure that this is going to live on, but many people have expressed a need for change. A radical and meaningful change that addresses inequality. How to effect this lasting change is not an easy proposition. 

Culture for me has a transformational character. I enjoy artwork that really gets to grips with difficult issues, that shows depth but allows space to think about and around what is  being presented. I’ve watched the Shane Meadows mini-series The Virtues three times now.  The final scenes completely transport me every time. PJ Harvey’s scoring of these scenes is masterful: ebbing, flowing and humming along like a messed up generator. 

Creative self-expression, as a creator and as a consumer, is crucial not just for mental well-being, but to enable us to imagine, create and share new ways of thinking about the world.  I’m not interested in endless re-hashings of old work: I want to see communities co-creating new work in collaboration with artists and organisations. I want to see work that explores the world through people’s lived experiences.

To do this we need youth centres, community centres and other public/community spaces for people to gather and be in. We need funding for young people to be in places where they are safe, where they can explore identities and have fun, away from families and carers. We need to offer children and young people connections with other adults and peers that are healthy and based on mutual trust and respect.  If we don’t do this we end up with unhappy and potentially dysfunctional adults.  We need the next generation to be confident adults who are able to think creatively and critically about the world.

While I was writing this, I was also watching a conversation between Faisal Abdu’Allah and Mark Sealy on youtube that talks beautifully about holding space. If you have some time to spare, go and be inspired.

This post is dedicated to Robin, 07/06/2019.

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