ART4PSY - Newsletter No: 1
In the recent years there has been growing interest in using art as means to promote psycho-social rehabilitation and recovery of people with mental health problems.
The idea that mental illness and creativity are connected is hardly a new one. Mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder etc., appear to be significantly more common among playwrights, novelists, biographers, and artists. Notable examples are Edward Munch, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes. The link between them has been extensively studied by psychologists. Several studies have demonstrated correlations between creative occupations and people living with mental illness. Nevertheless the exact relationship between creativity and mental illness is not clear. One could assume that people with mental illness may have the capacity to experience the world in a really original way, and therefore their creativity is increased. On the other hand, we could assume that creative people are more prone to mental illness. Whatever the case, one thing has been constantly appeared in studies: when people with symptoms of mental illness engage in creativity and the arts, they are much more likely to get better as a result.
This idea of using art as therapeutic means is gaining more and more mental health practitioners; and therapies that include art are becoming more and more popular among mental health units. Nevertheless, steps toward this direction are rather slow. Most mental health units consider art as a creative therapeutic way to keep patients occupied and promote their well-being. Therefore they are not interested in the artistic result, or in helping mental health patients to advance in a potential artistic career. In many cases they do not have the necessary experience or artistic know-how to assist their patients in reaching their full potential. The need for a practical guide for mental health practitioners is evident and the ART4PSY project will address these issues.
Although all European countries have had psychiatric reforms, moving from asylums to community-centred units, there are significant differences between countries. Each country – and in many cases each mental health unit – is developing its own methodology, activities and tools. A European Network for art and mental health was established two years ago (NEFELE) via “Creative Europe”, and it is an important initiative but, apart from networking, it does not provide its members with specific tools. ART4PSY intends to assume a supplementary role providing exactly the parts that are missing. We should note that the leader partner (PEPSAEE) of the ART4PSY project is one of the founding members of NEFELE network that was established right after the project’s funding ended.
The ART4PSY project will contribute in fighting stigma and promoting social inclusion, while mental health patients will develop artistic skills, and will be encouraged to explore the creative sector as possible career opportunity.