Significant positive benefits in terms of mental health and well-being have been reported by individuals experiencing anxiety and depression, after being referred to a course of arts activities. Self-esteem and confidence increase when arts skills are learnt in a safe environment with a sympathetic group of individuals, according to the evaluation of MK Arts for Health’s first year of the Arts on Prescription programme. Through the scheme, adults with mild to moderate mental health conditions can be referred to participate in arts activities as a therapeutic tool to improve their mental well-being, enabling self-directed changes to be made. The report recommends structured supervision for both workshop facilitators and artists, and notes that a participation agreement set out at the beginning of the course was beneficial in terms of setting boundaries for participant behaviour. It also says that clear guidance needs to be given to referrers to ensure future health-related arts workshops can be administered and used appropriately for those most in need. For benefits to be gained the focus should be on maintaining levels of engagement and long-term relationships with participants, rather than increasing the number of individuals involved. 

Liz Hill