(Image Credit: Sky News)

For many years, there has been an ongoing stigma against people with mental health issues. Sure the United States has 24-hour helplines available and access to some of the best mental healthcare facilities in the world, but these don’t deny the fact that there are still people who don’t fully understand the weight of mental health. This is why it is important to get the message out in new and exciting ways, as this will engage the public.

So when the Head Above Water sculpture was unveiled in London last September, the world took a step back and took notice. This was art in action.

Head Above Water

The Head Above Water was a nine-meter high, sustainable, 10-ton wooden sculpture made out of certified wood, and located on an elevated structure next to the River Thames. Its purpose was to stimulate discussion to end the stigma against mental health and discrimination. The sculpture lit up during the night, reflecting what people were feeling through a live Twitter feed.

“"The head" is deliberately gender, ethnicity and age neutral,” explained its creator Steuart Padwick. “[It] stands as a symbol of hope, bravery, compassion, positivity and change, for those who have gone through or are still confronting mental health issues, and the people who support them.” Its changing color reminded the world that mental health comes in many forms 

Time to Change

Head Above Water supported a new UK anti-stigma mental health campaign called Time to Change. The original campaign was launched by two charities in 2007, and ran until 2011. During that period, Time to Change worked to improve public attitudes towards mental health problems, reduce stigma and discrimination.

Time To Change launched its Ask Twice social media campaign last October, advising people to "ask twice" if they suspected a friend, family member, or colleague might be struggling with mental health issues. It was an encouragement for people to open up and be more honest about their feelings. Alongside the social media campaign, the sculpture was a good reflection of how art is often used to inform people about the increasing concerns of mental health. Which is why it is used to help those who suffer from mental health issues. 

Art as Therapy










The Head Above Water sculpture shows how art has always been closely linked to mental health. As a platform for expression, art is used to help people communicate, overcome hardships, and explore different aspects of their personality. Very Well Mind explains how in psychology this creative process, known as art therapy, is used to improve general well-being. Art therapy is used by psychologists to help people with their healing, treatment, rehabilitation, and peace of mind. This is done by learning a new creative process, the impact of which is being more widely recognized A post from Maryville University targeting psychology graduates describes how psychologists have found connections between mental health and learning, which has led to a demand for more specialists who cover this area. They can help patients interpret the feelings they pour into their designs, and better understand how to resolve certain problems.

Art helps people develop a narrative of their own that is not formed by outside stigma. But you don’t have to go through these experiences alone. The people at the National Alliance on Mental Health have helped thousands of other people find support groups that can get you through tough times. Much like the Head Above Water sculpture and art therapy, support groups have the ability to connect people together and fight the stigma. 


Written by: Alyssa Summers

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How The Head Above Water Sculpture Helped Break the Stigma of Mental Health