Stop ‘The Arts’ Stigma For Mental Health

Stop the Arts Stigma for Mental Health

Being creative. It’s innate. Then why is there a stigma surrounding ‘creativity’ and ‘being creative’, especially in relation to mental health? And what impact does that have on access and support from the young person’s perspective?

Recently I found myself exploring this question more, after a conference I hosted exploring the arts and mental health regarding young people. When asking young people about the limitations in accessing the arts, and how it has impacted their mental health; the topic aroused a collective response of stigma surrounding the word ‘creativity’ and ‘arts’ as a whole.

My personal fascination with art and mental health, stems from my own experiences of how cathartic and beneficial art was (and still is) a vital lifeline for my mental health. This has flourished over time to include music, photography and other creative outlets. I even went so far as to explore creativity and mental health in my final year dissertation studying Counselling. 

My panel of inspiring young people, navigated a conversation full to the brim with personal experiences and individual journeys of education. There was a notion that to be ‘creative’, was to place a veil upon the arts, because some (and many, as I find out…) feel that to be creative, is to narrow the arts down to stereotypical subjects, where only the outwardly creative could draw the curtain back on.  

So…What Is Creativity?

When we talk about creativity, an over-arching word which loosely describes, well, pretty much everything a human being is- is stereotypically seen as ‘art, music and drama’ related careers from a young person’s perspective. The dictionary term is ‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.’

Inventiveness, can be argued as being an innate part of the human condition. So…’creativity’ is just part of us all. Cognitive processes, expression, the ‘creation’ of anything from thought.

As a young person, we associate this with the stereotypical ‘drama kids’ or the ‘art kids’ from our initial experiences of ‘creativity’ in an educational setting. The creative subjects rounded up as expressive, exclusive and separate entity based on talent. However, there’s creativity in everything we do. Absolutely everything. We need to re-evaluate how we can bring ‘the arts’ into every subject, and every part of our lives.

Identity & Expression

From a young age, we look at our identity and fall into social groups that support us in defining our strongest traits. When I was at school, I associated myself with the ‘arts and drama kids’, where most of the classrooms dedicated to creative subjects clustered into one corridor. 

We see young people utilising these subjects to openly reveal themselves, delve into worlds that are subjective and expressive. What happens to young people who feel they don’t stereotypically ‘fit in’ to these educational subjects? What happens when these young people struggle with their mental health, and feel disassociated with how the ‘arts’ can benefit them?

When I put ‘arts’ into inverted commas, it is to question the ideas surrounding what the arts represents for us as individuals. My personal thought, is that it encompasses creativity in all its forms. From drama and art all the way to technology, engineering and business. 

Where traditional forms of therapy can restrict some who experience mental health problems, the process of art therapy bypasses the speech-language issue with the brain. And not even in the ‘art therapy’ sense, but in every part of our lives. The act of creation, externally captures thought, feeling…emotion. 

As the Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry Report states, “The conundrum that we have found ourselves pondering is why, if there is so much evidence of the efficacy of the arts in health and social care, it is so little appreciated and acted upon.

It embodies everything, and is the most inclusive part of ourselves we should all dip into. Every human being benefits from experiencing this.

We need to change the perceptions of what being ‘creative’ is and what ‘the arts’ encapsulates. 

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