Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

The Use of Arts Interventions for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Health Settings

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

The Use of Arts Interventions for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Health Settings

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over the past 30 years, the arts and health field has developed and has grown especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Particularly in the UK, the field has expanded across research, practice, academia and policies. A recent inquiry report from the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing illustrates the significant impact on personal and public health that participation in activities in a spectrum from clinical arts interventions to non-clinical participatory arts programmes can have.1 The mental health benefits of participatory arts are highlighted in numerous reports and reviews.2–4 Furthermore, there is a growing international evidence base showing the impact that the arts have on health and wellbeing of communities and individuals.5 The interest for the field of arts and health is also increasing in Scandinavia. In Norway, the Norwegian Centre for Arts, Health and Care (Kultur, helse og omsorg – Nasjonalt Komptansesenter) established in 2014 works to create and improve interaction between research, education and practice in the field of arts and health. The Centre for Research in Music and Health (CREMAH) in Oslo was established in 2008 and has published more than 10 scientific reports on music activities and experiences as a health resource. At the Center for Social Sustainability at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, research areas include cultural activities in primary care centres and one of the centre’s researchers has edited Kulturhälsoboxen which is a research-based set of small popular books (covering dance, music, theatre, film/photo and silence) about how arts and culture can be used with health benefits.6 The box set has been distributed across GP practices in Sweden. In the region of Skåne, there are many arts and health initiatives in hospitals, homes for older people, schools and so on. Skåne delivered ‘Kultur på recept’ (arts on prescription) as a pilot project from 2012 to 2014 to citizens who were off work due to ill health which showed improved mental health wellbeing among the participants.7 With inspiration from Skåne, four local authorities in Denmark are currently (2016–2019) delivering ‘Arts on prescription’ (AOP) programmes for citizens on sick leave, mostly due to depression, stress and anxiety. The programmes are supported by the central Government’s SATS funding. In addition, Aalborg University in Denmark hosts NOCKS (Nordjysk Center for Kultur & Sundhed) which is a novel collaboration between Aalborg University, Aalborg University Hospital, the local authority and the regional authorities. The centre aims to generate knowledge, improve practice and to focus on dissemination of results/findings. Such evidence is demanded from regional as well as national health agencies.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts an upward curve on mental health issues worldwide as diagnosis of mental illnesses increases as a whole.8 WHO estimates that depression in 2020 to be the second largest global burden of disease, and that by 2030, it will be the largest. According to WHO, depression is a widespread disorder that more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from; it is the main reason for functional health challenges worldwide and thus a major contributor to the overall global disease burden and the cause of many complications, mental as well as physical difficulties.

Furthermore, a report from the Danish Health Agency shows that a rising number of people have poor mental health wellbeing.9 There is increasingly focus on mental health illness among young people in Scandinavia10 and the European Union has taken the initiative to improve the mental health wellbeing of its member countries.11 By suggesting that engagement in arts activities can be useful tools to address some of the global mental health challenging identified by WHO and other research, this article will focus on the various results from projects within a spectrum from clinical arts therapies to non-clinical participatory arts programmes associated with mental health benefits, for a range of populations including persons with physical ill health or mental health problems and health professionals. …

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