Almost 1,300 mental health patients in the British South West have had their anonymous data collated and inspected by researchers at the University of Gloucestershire. The participating individuals each were prescribed an art course as part of their mental health care plan. After publishing the results in the European Journal of Public Health, it's now open knowledge that the arts have positive effects when applied in this way.
Non-medical methods of health-care are called social prescriptions and can include any number of socially relevant tools for better health. Holistic healthcare takes notice of the fact that our well-being is reliant on many factors in life and chemical interventions are not necessarily the most appropriate primary option. Mental health is one of the fastest growing issues in the UK, with loneliness and stress contributing the most. Living nuclear lives in high pressure jobs like so many do can leave us feeling drained and without the community comforts we need to feel supported.
Art courses on prescription are not the same as art therapy, where clients take an amateur approach to creativity under the wing of a professional. The new styled prescriptions offer clients a way of learning a skill, either in painting, drawing, or writing. This hugely benefits them in the way it offers new layers to their life and shows them that they can learn things they enjoy. The courses give participants confidence and helps to increase self-esteem.
One important factor in the data collection is that the anonymous nature of the results means that individual cases can't be traced back to underlying conditions. These could be a diagnosis or a life problem that brought them into mental health care. Even though the results have been highly positive, the scheme is not gaining enough support to become a nationwide mental health care initiative. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health, and Well-Being have credited the investigation and brought the results forward. This first time for such a large data set enables researchers to strike out the small scale patterns which may not translate into a wider area.
It's not always the job of the government to provide benefits to society, we are all able to use this knowledge to improve the lives of those around us. With many arts courses available online, some of which are free for all, the options are already there for many of us to take positive steps to wellness.
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Rowan Blair Colver for Alternative Fruit
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