Staying well in a world that can be confronting and confusing is of vital importance and so it was fantastic back in May this year when the Government announced a $1.9 billion boost in funding to help address the growing mental health crisis in New Zealand. Mental health touches everyone: our families and communities in rural areas, across all regions, towns and cities.
Among the major initiatives will be the establishment of a new frontline mental health service, expected to help 325,000 people with mild or moderate mental health needs by 2024. Importantly, this will require more trained mental health specialists in doctors’ clinics, iwi health providers and other health providers throughout the country.
Alongside the need for mental health specialists, there are other cost-effective and long-term solutions to improving, supporting and maintaining our wellbeing.
Those of us in the arts sector – particularly in the community arts sector – are constantly learning about arts projects and programmes that improve and nourish participants’ wellness and resilience. Inclusive, community-based creative spaces, in particular, support wellbeing and provide a sense of belonging for those who attend them.
Mental health and wellbeing in Christchurch
Findings from research conducted for Ōtautahi Creative Spaces in Christchurch showed the “profound” impact of its arts programmes on artists’ mental health and wellbeing. In Christchurch, mental health and wellbeing is of particular concern.
Adding to this research are findings of a survey made available online last week by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
The aim of the research was to provide insights into what creative spaces offer, their strengths and resources. It has highlighted the challenges they face providing programmes to meet the needs identified in their communities.
Called Understanding the Value of Creative Spaces, the report reveals that all creative spaces that participated in the survey stated that the key benefits for participating artists are social interaction, increased confidence, improved wellbeing, increased creative expression/skills, increased self-esteem and a sense of belonging.
Almost all (95-97%) also listed other benefits as communication skills, connection with their local community and self-development.
The report findings demonstrate the opportunity and value that creative spaces offer policymakers and funders wanting to deliver greater wellbeing outcomes to people in need of support. Creative spaces have proven programmes and structures in place, and it make sense to support them so they can strengthen and expand their services to meet the needs and demand outlined in this report.
I was pleased to use the research findings in a presentation I gave to Ministry of Health staff in the Mental Health and Addictions Directorate. I will also pursue presentations to the Ministry of Social Development, local government and District Health Boards.
Understanding the value of creative spaces
Wellington City Council has demonstrated that it understands the value provided by creative spaces. With its additional funding, Vincents Workshop will soon be opening its doors for another eight hours a week. Given the demand on Vincents’ services, it’s a very positive step forwards in increasing the health and wellbeing of people in Wellington.
In Vincents Art Workshop to open more hours, it says that more than 600 people were registered at Vincents with an active art plan between July 2018 and June 2019, compared to 480 people over the previous financial year.
The story also says that the Ministry of Social Development provides funding for a target of 80 artists with a disability. However, the number of artists with a disability has more than doubled to 200.
This is an example of demand for services throughout the creative spaces sector. Increasing wellbeing investment in the services provided by creative spaces is an obvious, effective way to reduce the number of people facing acute mental health crises and sustain wellbeing.
Arts Access Aotearoa was pleased to be involved in Understanding the Value of Creative Spaces, and I thank Mary Donn, Senior Policy Adviser, Arts and Media, Ministry for Culture and Heritage for her lead on this important initiative.
Visit the research section of the Arts Access Aotearoa website for international and New Zealand examples that demonstrate the value of the arts to our health and wellbeing.
Please get in touch with me if you have any feedback about this research report (E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 04 802 4349).