What Does Art Have to do with Mental Health?

As a culture we tend not to talk about mental health, even though mental health issues like stress, depression, and anxiety are common place. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.  Most folks I know have a family member or friend who has experienced a mental health issue.

What Does Art Have to do with Mental Health?

A lot actually. Art can be very healing. Perhaps you’ve never though of art in this way but art has effectively been used to help individuals cope with a mental illness.  One example is making pottery as a part of treatment for depression. Art can be helpful in achieving good mental health in a few ways:

  • Expressing Emotion – Research tells us that emotional expression has positive benefits for the immune, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. Self-expression is life-enhancing and art can help us to express our feelings and share our experiences.
  • Communication is Key – Having a way to communicate difficult issues, reconcile emotions, and reduce stress is important to our well-being. Creating art helps individuals process traumatic feelings & communicate when there are no words
  • Calming the Mind – Creating art can be very pleasurable and relaxing.  The experience of painting or drawing has been shown to reduces stress, promote a sense of calmness and slow blood pressure and heart rate. 

Art can be therapeutic – for the audience as well as the artist
– Bonnie Sherr Klein

Raising Awareness of Mental Illness

Beyond individual health and healing, art can be used to help the community better understand mental illness and work to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness.

House of Artists, Gugging Center

Gugging – One of the most amazing programs I am aware of is the Maria Gugging Psychiatric Clinic, also know as the Art / Brut Centre Gugging, located in Vienna, Austria .

What stated as psychiatric treatment center has evolved into a unique cultural center for art and psychotherapy.  The Art / Brut Centre Gugging includes the House of Artists , a social care center that provides individuals with mental illness residential treatment along with artistic opportunities, a museum that houses a collection of the gugging artists work and a museum shop.

This center and the gugging artist are helping to educate the larger community on mental illness and reduce the stigma attached to mental illness.

Art Is Healing

Art can be very healing for both individuals and communities.  Art can help us to relax our mind and body and express our thoughts and feelings.

Art is also a great communication tool, allowing us to share our experiences with others and providing us a way to connect with our community.

August Walla, Gugging Gallery

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