North London Partners logo

We are a partnership of NHS, councils, and voluntary sector organisations, working together to improve health and care in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey, and Islington.  

Home E News E An inspiring partnership with Art Against Knives to tackle mental health inequalities in Barnet

An inspiring partnership with Art Against Knives to tackle mental health inequalities in Barnet

The Barnet Borough Partnership is working with local charity, Art Against Knives (AAK), to support their work with young people in the borough as part of its ambition to tackle mental health inequalities in Barnet, specifically the longstanding mental health inequalities of Black men.

AAK is an award-winning charity collaborating with young people, their communities, and the creative industry to create lasting social change. The charity works within isolated communities, setting up co-designed creative spaces and activities to prevent young people from becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.

The Barnet Borough Partnership is proud to be supporting AAK to sustain one of these co-designed spaces, “The Lab”, which was set up in 2015. Starting off seven years ago in a shop unit in North Finchley town centre transformed into a pop-up music studio, The LAB provides young people the space to write, record and produce their own music and socialise in a safe, creative, and professional environment.  To date, the young people have produced over 100 tracks and showcased them on released mixtapes, including the most recent “Best of Mixtape” celebrating seven years of The LAB.

The staff at The Lab, who are experts in the creative fields of music production and DJing, are also specialists in youth violence prevention, trained in psychologically informed approaches and are experienced personal development mentors. They will work with the young people on a long-term, relational basis providing them with the skills to help them to manage conflict, safety plan, access specialist support services and make positive life choices. As importantly, they support young people to become social change-makers, changing the systems and conditions in their communities that put them at risk of violence and mental health inequalities.

The importance of spaces like The Lab is highlighted in this quote from Osaro, one of AAK’s youth employees. He says “A good space for Black men to talk about their mental health is non-existent. Black men and, I think men as a whole, feel weak taking time out their day to discuss their mental health. Opening up amongst other strangers is even a less likely thing. The only way to orchestrate a safe spot for men is when they are going to work, on their lunch break or getting food. When they feel like they are still being productive and useful.”

The ultimate aim is to enable these young people to access more community-based and peer support, increase their self-awareness of their mental health, to give them access to wellbeing activities tailored for them and to help them to have a positive future. The partnership is also committed to learning from the young people about how best to address inequalities and feed that learning back into existing statutory services.

Find out more about the work being done at The Lab on the Art Against Knives’ website