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Are the arts a shadow health service?

Have you noticed an unusual sense of dread or anxiety simply at the thought of turning on the radio or news in recent times?

Bombarded with daily, even hourly updates on Covid and its far reaching impact on so many of us has seen mental health issues sky rocket throughout our communities and the world.

With growing evidence of the positive impact of the arts on health, UK's Health Secretary is urging doctors to start turning to social prescribing as alternatives to just pills.

Maybe it's something our medical system should start considering as a genuine idea?

People tend to think of personal health in a limited way. Medical services of one kind or another are largely given the onus of keeping people well and fixing them when they become poorly. We are encouraged to stop smoking, drink less alcohol, lose weight and exercise. More recently, the idea of well-being has helped to shift that somewhat. Yoga and mindfulness, to take two examples, are now heavily associated with the idea of health.
But rarely, if at all, are people encouraged to take up creative hobbies: the arts do not tend to be thought of in medical terms. But creative practices in the arts and humanities really can help people stay healthy or recover when illness strikes. By engaging in creative activities such as music making and listening, dance, drawing, comedy, reading groups, visiting museums and galleries and so on, people can do their minds and bodies the world of good. The arts can therefore be thought of as the shadow health service. They can improve our physical and mental health, not least through the increased social connections they generate.
music used as therapy
The creative arts and humanities are one of the best ways to enhance public health and social connectedness. More than this, these resources do not need to be prescribed by a doctor. The public can access for themselves a shadow health service of creative facilities and resources to buffer themselves against the hard knocks of life, recover from illness or improve quality of life despite illness or poor health.
therapy with dance

SOURCE: The Conversation November 7, 2018 8.47pm by Paul Crawford

Professor of Health Humanities, University of Nottingham

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