New project to explore memories of mental health care provision in Nottingham awarded funding

The National Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a grant of £10,000 to the Department of Social Work, Care and Communities at Nottingham Trent University, for a new project entitled ‘The Heritage of Nottingham Mental Health Provision: Memories of Early Care in the Community’.

The project will work in partnership with former patients, carers and retired staff to explore and document the heritage of early community care in Nottingham following the Community Care Act of 1990.

Nottingham has been at the forefront of innovation in mental health care provision, such as the introduction of the open-door policy at Mapperley hospital in 1952 and introducing the first community mental health team in the 1980s as part of the transition from asylum to community care. Yet little is known about the impact of the changing provision of mental health care on the relationships between service users, their families and the professionals delivering care.

The project has arisen from extensive consultation and research carried out by Dr Verusca Calabria at Nottingham Trent University. The research focused on the experiences of mental health service users and professionals who gave and received care in the now closed mental hospitals in Nottinghamshire across a period of 50 years.

The findings challenge the historical position of psychiatric hospitals as institutions associated with the misuse of power by providing a reappraisal of the value of inpatient mental health care. The findings reveal the loss of the hospital communities as places of safety and belonging and a loss of heritage from the now closed and/or demolished institutions. Participants have expressed a need to explore and document the heritage of early community care in Nottingham following the Community Care Act of 1990.

Supported through the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this project will engage collaboratively with people with experience of mental ill health and it will extend to include their families as well as clinical and non-clinical staff and the wider community. Dr Calabria will work in partnership with Middle Street Resource Centre, Central Library, Nottingham Mental Health Trust and the Carers Council, including local mental carers and service user groups, to deliver the project.

The project will deliver a series of public Down Memory Lane events in which stakeholders will be invited to reminisce about the changing experiences of mental health care during the transition from asylum to community care, supported by the use of archival images and newspaper clippings. The resulting knowledge will inform the co-production of a pop-up exhibition that will tour across several venues in and around Nottingham from September 2020 onwards. A specialist academic report will be produced for the Nottingham Mental Health Trust.

If you are interested in taking part in the Down Memory Lane events and/or in volunteering to help co-produce a heritage exhibition about the rich history of mental health provision in Nottingham, please contact Dr Verusca Calabria via email or tel: +44 (0)115 848 2053.