It has been pretty well documented over the last few years, and in no small part thanks to COVID-19, that the arts can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
As I have covered in previous posts, the expressionism that comes from performance or visual arts alone have been noted by the individual to lift their spirits, inspire them, and even embolden them on to new career paths.
Unfortunately, the arts still hold a stigma in the wider consciousness of Australian Society – who have for generations preferred and idealised “sports theatre”. There is no denying the effects that physical exercise has on the body, or the mind, but their “sister” (the arts) is 9/10 overshadowed by Governments and Politics.
In 2023 alone, various Western Australian arts organisations and societies have seen their funding slashed – or in some cases, not even receiving them. The impact the arts held over our society was seen during the pandemic – whilst we were restricted within our households, we turned to the arts: streaming services, painting or drawing, music, books, etc. Social media saw an uptick in creators, especially within the LGBTQIA+ with make-up tutorials, drag expressionism, and various other art forms.
According to research by the Good Arts, Good Mental Health (GAGMH) project at the University of Western Australia, a ‘dose’ of just two hours per week in any arts activity, can have an impact on your mental wellbeing.
“Budgets are stretched at the moment, but arts engagement doesn’t have to be expensive. We need to prioritise our mental well-being, and the fact is, you don’t have to be good at art for the arts to be good for you,” commented Dr. Christina Davies, Director of the UWA Centre for Arts, Mental Health and Wellbeing, and lead researcher for the GAGMH Project.
“There is strong evidence that taking part in arts activities positively impacts mental wellbeing. This includes joy, confidence, self-esteem, and connection to others,” she stated.
Over the past 12 months, the GAGMH team have worked with almost two thousand community members, with research confirming that people want to know more about the mental health benefits of arts engagement, especially free or low-cost options.
For easy, everyday arts options during Mental Health Week people are encouraged to try the GAGMH arts challenge. You can download information and free resources, including colouring sheets, from the challenge website by searching “Good Arts Good Mental Health” and clicking on the downloadable resources button, or via @artshealthwa on Instagram and Twitter (X).
The research continues, but demographic specific information is still undetermined. The more people from the LGBTQIA+ and other marginalised communities who take part in the project, the more definite data and research can be made into the effect of arts engagement on broader communities.
The Good Arts, Good Mental Health project is supported by the Western Australian Future Health Research and Innovation Fund, which is an initiative of the WA State Government, and two of Australia’s major philanthropic foundations: The Ian Potter Foundation, and Minderoo Foundation. The project is also supported by the Department of Local Government, Sport, and Cultural Industries, CircuitWest, and St John of God Health Care.
Check out the Good Arts, Good Mental Health website to get in touch, or get involved.
Last Updated on Oct 19, 2023