Drawing on art for recovery
Despite the challenges around bringing art into the health services, the benefits are numerous, writes SYLVIA THOMPSON
OFTEN ARTS projects are seen as luxurious extras in healthcare settings but new research in University College Cork (UCC) has found that arts projects can reduce stigma and social isolation for individuals with mental health problems.
Beyond Diagnosis – the transformative potential of the arts on mental health recovery looked at three different arts projects in Cork in which people with mental health problems participated.
The Unfold visual arts and animation project met for weekly sessions of drawing, painting, collage work and Stop Motion animation at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork city.
The Flow music project encouraged participants to use their voices, bodies and instruments to create new sounds and compositions which were recorded each week.
And, the Listen and Look music project involved artists, staff and mental health service users working together to create songs based on previously written Haiku poems.
“I attended the art and animation group every Monday in the Crawford Art Gallery,” says Marie Hickey who has been in and out of hospital with depression for over 10 years. “I’ve been much better for the past two years with no admission to hospital. I found the group was a great outlet away from the psychiatric services. There was a lot involved in working with animation for the project,” she explains.
“It meant a lot that it was held in a normal setting so there wasn’t the stigma of going back to the hospital where you might feel like you were going backwards,” adds Hickey.
Mary Dineen is a community mental health nurse in Cork city and the chairwoman of the Arts Minds projects mentioned above.
“When I became a community mental health nurse 10 years ago, I realised that the biggest problem for people was social isolation. Because of the nature of their condition many of them are alienated from their families. They tend not to get involved in community activities so they might not see anyone for days,” explains Dineen.
And so Dineen spoke to the other community mental health nurses in the Cork area which led to the development of the Arts Minds HSE staff-led initiative. To date, the group has worked across seven mental health settings in the Cork area and held over 100 projects in arts, community and mental health venues.
“Involvement in Arts Minds projects gives people a chance to get to know one another. They gel well. When you’re busy and absorbed in a meaningful activity, you can’t be thinking too much about yourself. And for those involved in performance like dance, it’s such a new experience which also gives them a chance to support each other. I can see friendships forming in the groups,” says Mary Dineen.