Clinging on in a tsunami: the arts and mental health

Since the beginning of 2020, the Baring Foundation has focused its arts support on the needs of people with metal health problems, after a decade of prioritising arts and older people. People in both groups – which of course are not mutually exclusive – have been deeply affected by the public health measures taken to combat the pandemic, not least because many of their social and artistic activities have been suspended. I’ve written about the problems for the Baring Foundation website: here are the opening paragraphs. If this is an area of interest to you, do follow the link to read the post and about the Foundation’s emergency funding for small organisations working in this area. 

On 15 May, just eight weeks into the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19, the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned of a ‘tsunami’ of mental illness to come. A survey of more than 1,300 doctors reported a 43% rise in urgent referrals and a similar fall in attendance at routine appointments. The College’s concern was that fear of coronavirus was keeping patients away from the vital services providing regular support, with a consequential increase in crises and emergency admissions. They also report evidence of the lockdown’s effects on people with no previous experience of mental health problems.

The arts have long played a vital part in helping people respond to mental ill-health. Mostly, it is in the everyday activities and services that enable people to manage their own conditions and live relatively well in the community. The Baring Foundation’s recent publicationCreatively Minded, describes the work of 170 mostly small organisations who use the arts to support people with mental health problems. The heart of their work is participatory art, giving people opportunities to create, perform and simply play, in kind and supportive spaces. Like most social and economic life all these arts activities came to a brutal halt when lockdown was imposed and there is, as yet, no indication of when they might be able to resume. They face two existential problems.

read the rest of the post on the Baring Foundation website

Full disclosure – I’m a trustee of the Baring Foundation and have just been succeeded as chair of the arts committee by the brilliant Vicki Ademume.