The Covid pandemic led to a nationwide increase in physical and mental health needs, particularly amongst the young, the elderly and minority groups. There is subsequently a critical bottleneck in supply and demand for mental health services in the UK, especially for child and adolescent mental health.
Practicing professional art therapists are currently oversubscribed with referrals from the NHS while effective alternative arts-led approaches to physical and mental health, recognised as effective by arts and health professionals, are not widely accessible to the publics that would benefit from them. At the same time self-care, social engagement, collaboration and the healing arts have moved to the foreground of contemporary arts practices.
The crucial role of art as a largely untapped public health resource has been acknowledged by All Party Parliamentary Group on arts, health and wellbeing which published its report Creative Health in 2017. Supporting and complementing this is an extensive literature on the effectiveness of arts and humanities interventions on social health and wellbeing. Professor Paul Crawford, an associate member and advisor to the group, has co-authored several books evidencing this, including Health Humanities (2015) and The Routledge Companion to Health Humanities (2020).
The Arts and Health Research Group is a collaborative, cross-disciplinary initiative combining expertise from the Schools of Arts, Allied Health and Community, Education, Humanities, Medicine and Social Work which will develop a range of projects investigating the therapeutic potential of the arts and humanities within traditional health and wellbeing contexts and wider social settings.
Over the next 3 years, we will seek funding for projects that build on partnerships with our associate members in other UK Universities, curate events engaging the public in the arts and health debate and develop projects that support, explore and evidence the profound therapeutic and public health benefits of participation in the arts.
Areas of Focus
- The therapeutic use of arts, culture and humanities for health, mental health and wellbeing in the community.
- Research to consider how the arts and humanities are applied to enable better understanding about health, wellness and illness.
- The training of medical, therapeutic and arts practitioners in the application of arts-based approaches to mental health and wellbeing services.
- Arts led approaches towards innovative social health solutions.
- Innovations in data collection for quality of life and health outcomes through participation in arts-based activities.
The Arts and Health initiative began with a public symposium in January 2022 which responded to the recognition of a range of researchers at Worcester working in this area and to the need for a strong research grouping in the School of Arts which could reach out to researchers in other schools, colleges and beyond. It included presentations by colleagues working in dance, health humanities, medical practice, paediatric care and psychotherapy.
Members of the Arts and Health Group are currently developing a second symposium for March 2024 – Therapeutic Landscapes: Custom, Folklore and Wellbeing - that brings in expertise from the Folk Cultures Special Interest Group at UW.