Mental Health in Archaeology

Mental Health in Archaeology is a subject close to my heart and is now beginning to get the recognition it deserves. Over the last few years there have been several project that have brought together archaeologists and mental health experts to use archaeology as a therapeutic tool. This is a short post and the purpose of which is to highlight those project and provide links as a starting off point for my own research and that of others wishing to learn more about what is going on in this interesting and emerging field. Please feel free to comment with more links if I’ve missed any!

I also just wanted to highlight the up and coming session at TAG on ‘Mental Health in Archaeology‘ which I hope to be attending this year.

Operation Nightingale – probably the most well known project which utilised archaeology as a therapeutic tool to aid in the rehabilitation of soldiers returning home from Afghanistan. The Defence Archaeology Group formed from this initiative. Current projects include ‘Waterloo Uncovered‘.

Past in Mind – this project brought together archaeological experts and those who had accessed mental health resources in Herefordshire. The project has an official blog ‘Blog From The Bog’. There is also a short post about it on the Herefordshire Mind website that can be accessed here.

Restoration Trust – is a group which supports culture therapy for people with mental health conditions. They support a range of groups based in cultural centres including archaeological excavation.

Williams Rathouse at Mind Aberystwyth also organised for Mind Aberystwyth members to attend archaeological digs the notes on which can be found here.

Big Heritage – is an social enterprise that connects schools, museums and communities with the past and are currently running a project related to mental health and archaeology. More details can be found on their web pages.

Digability – is a three year project which provided opportunities for marginalised groups to participate in archaeology including adults with learning and physical difficulties, minority ethnic communities as well as mental health service users.

2 responses

  1. Dear Helen
    Thanks for this useful post. Im delighted to see the Restoration Trust cited here – we are developing a project in partnership with Bournemouth University, English Heritage and the Richmond Fellowship to test a new mental health/wellbeing programme at Stonehenge. We hope to canvas opinion at TAG. Our proposal includes archaeology/mental health research mapping.
    You might also be interested in Dr Faye Sayer’s research measuring wellbeing/happiness during excavation and comparing the impact on students and people from the local community. She has a very interesting paper on the brink of publication: Can digging make you happy: archaeological excavation happiness and heritage.
    We would be really pleased to hear of any other initiatives.
    Kind regards
    Laura Drysdale

    • Dear Laura,

      Thanks for your comment. Its great to hear that there are new projects in development and I will be keeping a look out for Dr Sayer’s paper and will add the link to this post when its published. Its great that this work is being done as I was recently thinking about how we could measure the impact of archaeological excavation and research activities on mental well-being.

      I’m hoping to attend the TAG session this year on Mental Health and Archaeology and will be very interested to hear about the Restorations Trusts new project. Hope to see you there.

      Best wishes

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