Art project boosts members' mental health

Published: 7 April 2015 at 13:36

Anglia Ruskin academics say one-year project has improved participants’ well-being.

An Essex arts project has been found to have improved the well-being and social inclusion of people recovering from mental health issues.

With support from Anglia Ruskin staff Dr Ceri Wilson, Lyn Kent and Professor Jenny Secker, the South Essex Service User Research Group (SE-SURG) evaluated a one-year study at the Open Arts studio at Hadleigh Old Fire Station, a community arts and mental health project run by South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (SEPT NHS).

The programme was commissioned by Essex County Council’s Cultural Development Team, who are looking for innovative approaches to improve people’s health and well-being.

Open Arts provides art courses consisting of taster sessions in visual arts, drama, film and photography, with an aim of offering relaxing, social arts groups that offer new skills and confidence for people with or at risk of mental health problems. The studio was established to enable graduates of the courses to continue their art work more independently.

A total of 23 studio members completed measures of mental well-being and social inclusion from the beginning to the end of their placement and their scores increased significantly over time.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal or Applied Arts and Health. Professor Jenny Secker, Emeritus Professor of Mental Health at Anglia Ruskin and SEPT NHS, said:

“Our previous evaluations have shown that the introductory arts courses run by Open Arts improve confidence, mental well-being and social inclusion for people experiencing or at risk of mental ill health."

“This latest study shows that people who take up an Open Arts studio placement after completing their course continue to benefit from pursuing their art work more independently. The results add further support for the use of participatory arts in promoting mental health and social inclusion.”

Jo Keay, Arts Project Manager for SEPT NHS, said:

“Open Arts are grateful to our funders Big Lottery and Essex County Council who make it possible for our projects to continue making a positive impact to so many people. Thanks to our studio managers, volunteers and studio members who continue to make the studio a success.”

County Councillor Roger Hirst, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Libraries, Planning and the Environment, said:

“The Open Arts project has returned impressive results, showing that the studio development at Hadleigh Old Fire Station has significantly improved members’ mental health and well-being."

“Positive results from the Open Arts project were anticipated, however the findings have by far exceeded expectations and we fully embrace the strength of the relationship between arts and well-being.”