The importance of space in mental health

Shefali Saxena Thursday 01st June 2023 06:13 EDT

Mindscapes, an international cultural programme about mental health developed by Wellcome Trust, a charitable foundation supporting science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone with an aim to transform how we understand, address and talk about mental health by bringing together cultural, policy and research folks. Through a range of cultural activities - including an artist residency, a documentary film created by sanitation workers, exhibitions and events - Mindscapes Bengaluru provides new perspectives on how people and communities in different contexts live with and seek solutions to their mental health concerns. 

Asian Voice spoke to Indu Antony - the Mindscapes Bengaluru artist-in-residence whose exhibition opens in three places across Bengaluru, inviting ideas, artworks and people to travel: at the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), the artist’s studio space Kāṇike in Cooke town and Namma Katte, a place for leisure for the women and children of Lingarajapuram. Indu’s work foregrounds questions around language on mental health and the city, care and a shared space for healing in togetherness. 

As a South Asian, what do you think is the importance of space when it comes to mental health?

I think in South Asia, especially in India, public spaces are not really accessible for women a lot of times. A group of women just sitting on the streets is not a visual sight that we see very often. So it was very important to create these spaces, not just as a space of leisure to do nothing but also as a space to come together. It need not be a space which has a very specific function but a space where the function is very much in the hands of the people who use that space. It was very important for me to create this space also to reflect on mental health. To be very honest, the space was not created as a space for mental health. It was created as a space with the aim of doing nothing, the aim of just existing. And I think in turn, it has taken a huge positive effect on the mental health of the people in the area. For people to see a swing and to come back to this idea of understanding of swings not just being for children but also for adults to feel this calmness of being rocked back and forth. Sometimes we also have workshops in that space where everybody comes together and does an activity but also to just sit around to gossip and talk and do nothing - which is the beauty of the space and very much helps us with our own mental health.

How can UK-India multiculturalism contribute to making safer spaces for better mental health?

I think mental health is very much of global importance, at this moment especially - post covid we have gone through a collective trauma and it is at the forefront of how to deal with what is happening around us. Not just around UK and India but also all around the world, there is quite a bit of importance around having conversations about mental health. But at the same time, it is also very culturally different. I think just the idea of space is very relevant to any country. Just having a physical space but coming into a space where there is no expectation of oneself, is very beautiful to approach. It does not require you to be a certain way to enter this space. You can just enter it. That is very much universal and is even more important post the pandemic.

How can the readers of Asian Voice in the UK access your exhibition?

The readers of Asian Voice can have access to the films that were being made around the concept of mental health. At the same time, we are hoping to do a virtual tour of the exhibition via an online space and maybe have a small recording of one of the walkthroughs that are happening, and put it up on an online platform that people can have access to. But at the same time, I am on Instagram and I reach out to as many people as possible and get back to those who reach out to me and try and talk to everybody - I put out detailed descriptions of all the works that have been made as a part of the Mindscapes project.
As part of Mindscapes, Wellcome is also working with film producers to produce the world’s first crowd-sourced feature film about mental health. The project, titled ‘I Hope This Helps’ is currently inviting people all over the world to submit footage. Readers can find out more and register their interest via

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