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Art for mental well-being exhibition praised

Lifestyle / Wed 25th Mar 2015 at 11:39am

Art mental healthNEW research has found that an art studio set up to help people recovering from mental health issues is significantly improving their health and well-being.

A one-year study has shown substantial gains in the mental well-being and social inclusion of the members at the Open Arts studio at Hadleigh Old Fire Station (HOFS) in Essex, a community arts and mental health project run by South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.

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

Open Arts offers arts 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 who feel they have a mental health need.

The research results followed a one-year evaluation of the Open Arts studio, which had been established by ECC to provide opportunities for graduates of the courses to carry out art-making independently with professional support.

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.

Members’ comments indicated increased social support, confidence, motivation and mental well-being, in addition to decreased social isolation.

The evaluation provides promising evidence of gains in mental well-being and social inclusion and the results add further support to the use of participatory arts in promoting mental health and well-being.

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 attending 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.”

The findings were published in the Journal of Applied Arts and Health by Ceri Wilson and Lyn Kent of Anglia Ruskin University, and Jenny Secker, Emeritus Professor of Mental Health at Anglia Ruskin and the South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.

Jo Keay, Arts Project Manager for SEPT NHS, commented: “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.

“It’s been amazing seeing the difference the studio has made to people’s lives and I really hope we are able to continue offering it, I would love to see it go from strength to strength so it can help as many people as possible in the future.

“You only have to read some of the comments from our studio members to understand how central the studio is to people’s recovery. I’m delighted that the report has highlighted this.”

Research shows that people with mental health problems are among the most socially excluded groups in the UK. Social exclusion is costly to the health and well-being of individuals and their families and to society as a whole as it can reduce the likelihood of recovery from mental health problems, but on the other hand, increased social inclusion can enhance mental health and reduce the impact of mental illness and help to promote recovery.

As well as the courses, Open Arts offers accreditation, volunteer work, links to further learning, research projects, exhibitions and studio provision at Hadleigh Art House part of the Hadleigh Old Fire Station community, arts and culture facility.

Hadleigh Art House offers Open Arts participants and volunteers the opportunity to develop their individual arts practice over a longer period of time at the Open Arts Studio, with the support and networks of local arts practitioners.

To contact Open Arts Email [email protected] or call 07903 188 673. Look up www.openartsessex.com or www.sept.nhs.uk/mental-health/open-arts or www.facebook.com/septopenarts or visit the Explore Culture website here

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