Art - Good For Your Mental Health?

The idea for the project, funded by the charity Morris Markowe League of Friends of Springfield University hospital and the Arts Council England, came from Tim A Shaw, an artist, and Niamh White, a curator, who wanted to do something after visiting a close friend on a psychiatric ward in another hospital. Shaw said of the ward: “We thought it wasn’t necessarily the right kind of environment to feel better. It was cold and clinical, and from our point of view, the colours and artwork weren’t stimulating.”

It’s often said that art is good for the soul: whether it prompts admiration, scorn, reflection, or just a wry smile, art is something that people connect with in a myriad of ways. 

A psychiatric ward in London has taken this principle a step further, and made a clear claim that art can also be good for the brain. What was once deemed a ‘cold’ and ‘clinical’ hospital space has now been transformed by art from the hands of Turner Prize-winning artists, photographers, and patients. 

What caught my eye was that it wasn’t necessarily the presence of the art itself which could aid patients, but rather the reactions it prompted. As one of the doctors notes, sometimes patients hate the art, but that in itself is enough to start a conversation in an environment where it’s often painfully difficult to do just that. 

The art world is often defined by a tension between those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t. Here, that tension has been mined as a potential source for major benefit.

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