Tuesday, July 5, 2022
NewsHealthAsylum archive research helping mental health service users in Dundee

Asylum archive research helping mental health service users in Dundee

MENTAL health service users in Dundee are exploring the experiences of asylum patients from the past with the aim of improving their own wellbeing. 

The initiative is facilitated by the University of Dundee, one of six partners in a UK-wide community programme “Scaling Up Change Minds’.

Participants are given access to archives to promote better social interactions and better mental health by connecting isolated people. 

The University says that sharing the historical records they keep for NHS Tayside has given service users new skills and improved confidence. 

Edith Swankie was just 14 when she was admitted to Dundee Asylum.

Marion Fraser, one of the participants, said: “I am 65 and looking towards getting qualifications that will allow me and my colleagues to help others with mental health problems and this is all thanks to the Archives project.

“It was a battle for me to even go to the Archives but from the moment I got there I didn’t want to leave. When we started the research we learned so much about the way asylums worked at that time and discovered both good and bad aspects.

“I felt energised by the research and the people I met doing it. It has done so much for my confidence and mental health.”

One case studied by the participants was said to bring hope to the group, while also educating them on mental health practices in the 20th Century. 

They learned about Edith Swankie, who was admitted to Dundee Asylum at just 14, before being removed by her mother and going on to live a happy life with a family of her own. 

Orginally developed in Norfolk, England before being trialled in Dundee, the programme is set to be rolled out in six new areas soon. 

While happy with the feedback of participants in the research, University staff will continue to monitor its lasting impact. 

Jacqui Eccles, from the University’s School of Health Sciences, said: “The pilot demonstrated the value of the archives in bringing communities together, in giving voices to individuals under-represented in the university environment and in wider society, and in creating spaces for difficult conversations. 

“This work also encouraged conversations about mental health care. As part of the evaluation process, we will produce a systematic review of peer-led education projects for mental health service users.”

According to Government figures, one in three people are said to be affected by mental illness in any one year in Scotland. 

Public Health Scotland also find that adults living in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to have common mental health problems compared to those in more well off areas. 

The Restoration Trust Charity will lead the archive programme into a national rollout, after receiving a Lottery Heritage fund grant of £250,000. 

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