Mental Health and The Arts: Art on Prescription
Having originally trained as a mental health nurse and a counsellor, Dr Theodore Stickley is Associate Professor of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham and has studied mental health social inclusion and community arts for his PhD. He continues to specialise in arts and health research. He is also a non executive director for City Arts (Nottingham) Ltd. and leads on the innovative Art In Mind programme of work, promoting mental health through community arts.
In 2008 he led on the development and delivery of the Open To All training programme for museums and galleries for the National Social Inclusion Programme, sponsored by Tate Modern, the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Wallace Collection and the MLA. At its launch the Secretary of State for Health gave his keynote speech on the Arts & Health. Theo has over eighty publications, a number of which are relating to the arts and health research.
In the UK, the era of New Labour witnessed a developing connection between the arts (and sport) and ‘neighbourhood renewal’. The concept of the usefulness of the arts to health has gained credence largely through community-based arts. Whilst there is an increasing evidence base for the usefulness of community arts delivery, there is little published evidence in the peer-reviewed literature of the effectiveness of Arts On Prescription delivery. The aim of this study was therefore to explore the experiences of people who have engaged with an Arts On Prescription programme of work.
This qualitative research study uses a narrative inquiry approach amongst participants of an Arts On prescription programme of work. 16 in-depth interviews were conducted in community-based arts venues. Each participant use or have used mental health services.
People experience Arts On Prescription as a creative and therapeutic environment. It is considered a safe place, where people can be creative with others who have shared similar experiences. People experience the social, psychological and occupational benefits although these benefits are not easily separated as they are intermingled. By feeling accepted and amongst people of similar experiences, people also gain a sense of social belonging. A number of participants have also found new opportunities for the future.
Community-based arts groups that are professionally facilitated may provide a therapeutic environment for participants. Whilst people gain a sense of pride in their work, they also experience psychological, social and occupational benefits.
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