According to figures from the NHS, one in four of us will experience poor mental health during our lifetime. This makes mental well-being one of society’s most pressing issues. From 2016 to 2018, Bournemouth University was at the forefront of a movement to explore new ways of addressing mental health problems, carrying out research for the Human Henge project led by the Restoration Trust and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund

This later developed into a successful trial of an online version in 2020 as a response to restrictions on getting out and about during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

A green logo with an icon of Stonehenge in white

Launched in May 2022, Bournemouth University is leading a new one-year AHRC-funded project ‘Scaling-up Human Henge’ as part of a wider initiative on Mobilising Cultural and Natural Assets to Tackle Health Disparities 

Collaborators on Scaling-up Human Henge include the University of Salford, The Restoration Trust, the University of Exeter, Avon & Wiltshire NHS Mental Health Trust, English Heritage, Rethink Mental Illness, The Richmond Fellowship and Wiltshire Museum, Devizes.

Working around the Stonehenge landscape our team of archaeologists, artists, musicians, healthcare practitioners, and economists will co-create a Culture Heritage Therapy Programme (CHTP), run and evaluate it as a pilot study.

Looking at the past to help the future

During the pilot study, which will be based in the Stonehenge landscape, participants living with long-term mental health issues will experience a range of creative group activities aimed at improving their mental well-being.

A crowd of people at Stonehenge for the sunrise

Taking place both outdoors and online, the programme will be rooted in archaeology, music, dance, creative skills and the power of place.

Participants will have opportunities for new social interaction, relationship building, self-awareness, and connectivity.

They will then be asked to help fully evaluate and refine the programme to produce good practice guidelines. The aim is to write guidelines that can be used to develop future CHTPs at ancient sites, for use by other projects.

Scaling-up Human Henge will be an important contributor in the field of social prescribing and the drive to address mental well-being in non-medicalised ways in a variety of places.

The work is intended to address health inequalities, explore treatment in communities, reduce social isolation, quantify the value of this approach to society – in both well-being and financial terms - and look at how a grassroots CHTP movement can influence national health strategies.

Further reading:

Historic landscapes and mental well-being. 2019. Edited by: Timothy Darvill, Kerry Barrass, Laura Drysdale, Vanessa Heaslip, and Yvette Staelens. Oxford. Archaeopress. Paperback; xx+282 pages; 70 figures, 7 tables (75 pages in colour). Available both in print and Open Access. Printed ISBN 9781789692686. Epublication ISBN 9781789692693.

Locating oneself in the past to influence the present: Impacts of Neolithic landscapes on mental health well-being. Health and Place. Heaslip, V., Vahdaninia, M., Hind, M., Darvill, T., Staelens, Y., O'Donoghue, D., Drysdale, L., Lunt, S., Hogg, C., Allfrey, M., Clifton, B., Sutcliffe, T., 2019.