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Cornwall Museums Partnership

Online arts and culture for young people's mental health - new research programme announced

Press Release:

Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP) are delighted to be partnering with the University of Oxford on this impactful programme. This new research-based project is a true example of how aligned our values and strategic goals are with regard to digital innovation, co-production in the museum sector, and sharing best practices of the incredible work that is happening within our Cornish museums. CMP will be brokering relationships between the project team and museums in Cornwall, furthering the objectives to co-produce arts interventions to support young people’s mental health.

After our positive track record on previous and ongoing projects related to well-being and young people’s participation in heritage, for example, Splanna! and the Culture Card, CMP is immensely proud to be collaborating on another arts and culture project that focuses on young people and mental health.

Please keep reading for the full press release supplied by the University of Oxford.

Young people will help create an ‘online museum’ as a way of improving their mental health, as part of a new and ground-breaking £2.61m research project hosted by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, led by researchers from Oxford University and funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

The project, known as ORIGIN (Optimising cultural expeRIences for mental health in underrepresented younG people onlINe), will run from 2023-2028 and is a collaboration between NHS Trusts, UK universities, and is partnered by museums and charities. The study involves diverse young people aged 16-24 co-designing an online arts and culture intervention aimed at reducing anxiety and depression.

Its effectiveness will then be tested in a trial of nearly 1,500 young people, including some of the most underrepresented young people, specifically LGBTQ+ and autistic young people, ethnic minorities and those who live in some of the most deprived areas of the UK, including Cornwall, Liverpool, Sheffield and Blackpool and those on NHS waiting lists for mental health support.

ORIGIN builds on preliminary research in which an online cultural experience called Ways of Being was co-designed and tested for mental health in young people. Despite limited time and resources in developing Ways of Being, it was enthusiastically received by young people and reduced negative feelings when compared with a traditional museum website.

Dr Rebecca Syed Sheriff, an NHS consultant psychiatrist and senior clinical researcher at Oxford University, led the preliminary work and is leading this programme.

Rebecca says: Most mental health problems start before 25, yet young people are the least likely to receive mental health care, with some groups such as ethnic minorities even less likely. Much of the support currently offered by health services, such as medication and talking therapies are inaccessible and unacceptable to many of the young people who need it most.

“Online support can be more accessible and this exciting project gives us the chance to work with diverse young people on their own terms to co-design an intervention that young people are engaged by and believe in.

“This programme could have significant implications for how arts and culture are used to improve the mental health of young people in the future in a way that is engaging and accessible across diverse groups.” 

Professor Kam Bhui, from Oxford University and co-lead of the programme, said: “There is enormous potential for creative and digital methods to authentically capture young people’s experiences and co-design interventions to prevent poor mental health. There is a massive treatment gap which we hope to fill.

“ORIGIN complements other pioneering programmes in the Department of Psychiatry on creative arts as empowering intervention for young people. The research offers a new paradigm of impactful research in partnership with the Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and NIHR Thames Valley and Oxford Applied Research Collaboration.”

Helen Adams, from Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums, which is partnering on the project, said: In our previous research, young people told us they want to connect with the human experiences of different people across the world and throughout history, good and bad, and told from different perspectives.

“Museums and other cultural institutions have the potential to meet this need but recognise that many stories embedded in their collections of artworks and artefacts are yet to be unlocked. Museums strive to create safe and inclusive spaces both in person and online, but know they are not always seen as accessible or relevant by many young people.

“We are really excited to be part of this project to challenge our ways of working, and to find out more about the ways in which arts and culture can help enrich and improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people, potentially encouraging lifelong engagement.” 

As well as co-designing the intervention, diverse young people will be an active part of the research team, and will help shape the research and interpret the findings. The advisory board for the project will include young people, teachers, carers, charity workers, social workers, health professionals and people who work in arts and culture.

Louise Chandler, 21, worked on the previous Ways of Being study and will be involved in the implementation of Origin.

She said: It felt powerful to have such agency over the preliminary project and to know that what we contributed really made a difference. It benefited my mental health to know that I was involved in a project so meaningful.

“This project is a really new and exciting way of working, not only because young people are co-producing the research and the intervention – but also because it will be reaching under-represented groups such as autistic and LGBTQ+ young people. 

“I wish something like this would have been available to me when I needed support and I hope it paves the way for young people to be more involved in mental health research.”


Find out more about the Ways of Being intervention produced as part of the Online Active Community Engagement (O-ACE) project.

Collaborators on ORIGIN include the University of Liverpool, University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, University College London, University of Plymouth, University of Cambridge, London School of Economics. Partners include National Videogame Museum, National Museums Liverpool, Cornwall Museums Partnership, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Cornwall-based Making Waves, Dreadnought and Speak Up Cornwall, and Imagineear.

To find out more and be part of the Origin network sign up to our mailing list by emailing:



Lisa Jones

Communications Manager

Department of Psychiatry

|University of Oxford | Warneford Hospital | Oxford | OX3 7JX

Tel: +44 (0)1865 618206 Mob: 07500 030841 |



Notes to editor


About Oxford University:

  • The University Department of Psychiatry’s mission is to conduct world-class research, teach psychiatry to medical students, develop future researchers in a graduate programme, teach doctors in training, promote excellence in clinical practice, and develop and provide innovative clinical services. It supports research in four key areas: neurobiology, psychological treatments, developmental psychiatry and social psychiatry. The Department is committed to the translation of scientific discovery into benefits for patients.
  • Oxford University has been placed number 1 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the sixth year running, and ​number 2 in the QS World Rankings 2022. At the heart of this success are the twin-pillars of our ground-breaking research and innovation and our distinctive educational offer.
  • Oxford is world-famous for research and teaching excellence and home to some of the most talented people from across the globe. Our work helps the lives of millions, solving real-world problems through a huge network of partnerships and collaborations. The breadth and interdisciplinary nature of our research alongside our personalised approach to teaching sparks imaginative and inventive insights and solutions.
  • Through its research commercialisation arm, Oxford University Innovation, Oxford is the highest university patent filer in the UK and is ranked first in the UK for university spinouts, having created more than 200 new companies since 1988. Over a third of these companies have been created in the past three years. The university is a catalyst for prosperity in Oxfordshire and the United Kingdom, contributing £15.7 billion to the UK economyin 2018/19, and supports more than 28,000 full time jobs.
  • Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums house some of the world’s most significant collections, covering the breadth and depth of the natural world, global art and artefacts. The four museums – the Ashmolean, History of Science, Natural History and Pitt Rivers – together with the Bodleian Libraries and Oxford Botanic Garden serve as the front door to the wealth of knowledge and research generated at Oxford.


About Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre:

The Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre (OH BRC) led by Professor John Geddes is based at the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.  The OH BRC is run-in partnership with the University of Oxford and involves 11 additional partner university and NHS Trusts across England.  Support for infrastructure is provided by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) for 11 research Themes focused on brain health.


About NIHR:

The mission of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:

  • Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
  • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
  • Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
  • Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
  • Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
  • Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.

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