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Mental Health and the Arts

Are the arts really helping those with mental health conditions? You betcha!

In 2019, the WHO (World Health Organization) conducted studies to answer the question "What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?" Results from over 3000 studies identified a major role for the arts in the prevention of ill health, promotion of health, and management and treatment of illness across the average person's lifespan.

Their findings:

For the prevention of conditions and promotion of mental health, the arts can...

- affect the social determinants of health

- support child development

- encourage health-promoting behaviors

- help to prevent ill health

- support caregiving

For the management and treatment of mental health conditions, the arts can...

- help people experiencing mental illness

- support care for people with acute conditions

- help to support people with neurodevelopmental and neurological disorders

- assist with the management of noncommunicable diseases

- support end-of-life care

The types of art that yielded these results included:

- performing arts (music, dance, theatre, singing, and film)

- visual arts (crafts, design, painting, photography, and sculpture)

- literature (writing and reading)

- cultural experiences (going to museums, galleries, art exhibitions, concerts, the theatre, community events, cultural festivals, and fairs)

- online, digital, and electronic arts (animations, film-making, and computer graphics)

In a documentary I Remember Better When I Paint, dementia patients and others with mental health conditions found "expressing themselves through art can help people with depression, anxiety, or cancer, too. And doing so has been linked to improved memory, reasoning, and resilience in healthy older people."

"The best part is that it helps people to improve their mental health through creativity. Making art is helping many people express themselves, without having to use words."

Because art activities involve engagement, imagination, cognitive stimulation, sensory activation, and unlock certain emotions, we can see just how well-suited the arts are for mental well-being.


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