Like the United States, other countries face challenges when addressing the mental health of its citizens. When approaches are discovered that are effective, it is often difficult to secure funding or provide accessibility for those avenues so that they can be offered to everyone in need. This is the case with a relatively new program known as the Open Arts program in the United Kingdom. Open Arts has been operating since 2008 and provides a creative art experience for people with mental health problems. The program is delivered by experts with both art and therapy backgrounds and allows clients a platform of expression that is based on art therapy concepts. In general, it differs significantly from more traditional therapeutic approaches and has proven to be very effective. Despite this, Open Art has financial limitations and recently has had to put clients on a wait list. To determine how well Open Art helps people with mental health issues, Kerrie L. Margrove of the Faculty of Health, Social Care, and Education at the Anglia Ruskin University in the U.K., recently led a study comparing waitlist clients to enrolled clients.
For her study, Margrove assessed 29 participants who did the Open Art program and 32 wait list control participants prior to the 12-week course. She used the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS) to gauge overall well-being and she also evaluated the level of social inclusion that the participants experienced. At the end of the course, Margrove assessed all of the participants again and found that those in Open Art had dramatic increases in well-being. They also scored higher on social inclusion measures than the control participants. The sample studied in this research presented with an array of mental health diagnoses, which suggests that this type of program can help alleviate a variety of symptoms. The opportunity to use art as a method of communication may help some clients who find their issues too painful or traumatic to address in other therapeutic settings. Also, being included in this type of class provided clients the chance to develop relationships and strengthen their social skills. This benefited them in their real life relationships with family members and friends. Overall, this study shows that novel types of therapy like Open Art should be explored further. Margrove added, “The evaluation justifies a future randomized controlled trial and economic appraisal of participatory arts projects.”
Margrove, Kerrie L., Kirsten Heydinrych, and Jenny Secker. (2013). Waiting list-controlled evaluation of a participatory arts course for people experiencing mental health problems. Perspectives in Public Health 133.1 (2013): 28-35. ProQuest.Web.
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