Just imagine if you went to your GP with some form of welfare problem and the doctor wrote out the prescription but when you looked, instead of it being for a bottle of pills or medicine it was for you to book tickets to a show at your local theatre or to attend a creative session at a community centre, wouldn’t that be weird?
In Wales they have trailed putting the arts on prescription, in a document called Arts and Health in Wales: A Mapping Study of Current Activity claims 20% of patient visit their GP for welfare reason rather than medical problems. It was also reported that 28% of those prescribed with some sort of social activity, for example within the art reduced repeat care from GPs after 12 to 18 months.
So last month we saw Mental Health Awareness week with various news items, adverts and activities throughout the UK in an attempt to bring home to people just how important Mental Health and Wellbeing is.
Mental health is something that is often seen as a taboo topic, something we shouldn’t talk about. But it’s important and not just in the arts but in general to be out in the open, in the wider community as that’s the only way these things can be dealt with properly.
It is ironic that the creative industry is often merited for helping those with mental issues and yet the link has not been made between those in the creative industry who are not currently working and their mental health.
The arts may contribute £27bn to the UK economy a year and has an increase in jobs by 17.8%, yet it continues to struggle with unemployment, low pay and unacceptable working conditions to be at an all-time high. What these figure don’t take into account is that most of the ‘new jobs’ are temporary lasting between a couple of months and year or two maybe so they are not counting the number of people coming out of work each year as they squeeze arts budgets, because that is how the arts industry works, people are always looking for the next job after all its freelance work.
So let’s just be clear, what exactly is mental health? It is the psychological wellbeing and functions of emotional and behavioural adjustment and recent studies have found that as many as 1 in 4 people in the UK suffer from some kind of mental health issue.
In recent months Mental Health has come higher on the social agenda with all sorts of campaigns and campaigners popping up everywhere, but the attitude of those working in the arts is not helpful when it is considered not to be a ‘proper’ job, they are seen as wasters or just doing what they do for fun. Yet the same people would feel very lost if they weren’t able to enjoy music or read a novel or be able to see theatre.
A report that was conducted in 2015 in Australia showed that those in the performing arts experiences symptoms of anxiety as much as ten times higher than those in the general population and are five times more likely to suffer from depression. These are all linked to money and job insecurities alone.
The arts can be lonely, isolated and alienating, but four of the industries big organisations have set up an awesome charity ArtsMind to support those with mental health problems, so if you are working within the creative sector and you do feel your mental health is not in a good place then do reach out, it is so important that you do, it won’t be easy, you may even feel embarrassing but it can only get better by reaching out, the ArtsMind website is: www.artsminds.co.uk