Transatlantic collaboration shares the learning from the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival internationally

Press release 25.5.2018

In an exciting transatlantic collaboration between the Mental Health Foundation and Yale University, the Festival team have published an academic paper documenting the learning from 10 years of the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival, published in the American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation.  The paper, led by Gail Aldam, the Festival’s Manager, documents three phases of the Festival’s development, from social contact theory, to “developing a social movement”, to “mainstreaming mental health”.

It highlights the success of the Festival in growing from one weekend in Glasgow in 2007 to reaching 30,000 people in Scotland each year, thus recognising the Festival’s role as a social movement tackling mental health stigma.  Inherent tensions, including balancing grassroots action and artistic endeavours, and the challenges of sustainable funding, are also explored. 

This paper is an output from the CRISP partnership[1], a knowledge exchange project to share learning between academia and the third sector, and between the EU and the US, which is focused on mental health and social inclusion.  As part of this project Gail Aldam has been sharing the learning from SMHAFF with colleagues at Yale University, and with the New Haven Festival of Arts & Ideas.  Read Gail’s blog on her secondment experiences here

Discussing the collaboration that led to the paper Gail Aldam said:

“I spent two month at Yale in New Haven CT as part of the CRISP partnership, under the citizenship and participatory research strand of the project. The focus of my work during the visit was largely around the arts and mental health, and sharing the work of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival which aims to promote social change through the arts. It was an incredibly valuable experience for me – I was able to meet with people throughout CT who were using the arts in similar ways to us, share the learning from our festival and to gain insight from their experiences.

The opportunity to collaborate on an academic paper was new for me and very important for my career development. The process of writing the paper allowed us to evaluate and critique the festival, and develop plans for the future. We are very involved in other international mental health festivals and this paper could be a useful tool for anyone starting out in this process.

I hope to continue to work with the team at Yale going forward and we have some ideas for further development. It is very important to me that we work globally to use the arts to explore mental health in a new way, and this collaboration has been a great example of that.”

For more information on the CRISP partnership please visit:  and follow the partnership on Twitter @CRISP_EU  

The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival runs 7-27 May: go to

[1] This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 690954.