The most impactful consequence of Arts funding cuts, and one that is often ignored, is the effect of the Arts on Mental Health. With the UK in a mental health epidemic, and rates of mental illness in young people at an all time high, how do we justify cutting funding to a proven mental health aid?
I have already established how and why the Arts are being cut in my first post, now it’s important to address how this impacts day-to-day life. A recent evaluation by the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing show that just one short art session led to an over 70% fall in levels of anxiety and depression in participants, and these results are not in a vacuum. The “All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing”, explained in their Creative Health report that they had found similar results. These studies do not categorically prove that there is link between the decline in Mental Health and the defunding of the Arts, but they do purport the link between Arts programmes and improved mental health, and that gets us some of the way there.
Luckily this is an angle that is already being explored in America; with physicians from Weill Cornell Medical College warning of the dangerous consequences of defunding Arts and Music programmes at ‘The Arts + Mental Health: The Impact on the Human Spirit’ forum in New York, in 2011. Citing studies that found there was an increase in the use of mental health facilities when Arts programmes were cut, Dr Richard Kogan warned that he felt these cuts were “penny wise but pound foolish.” It seems that at least some of these warnings rang true, with the decline in Mental Health seemingly keeping pace with the decline in Arts funding in both UK and US respectively.
A 2018 study found that a quarter of 14-year-old girls had self-harmed, with similar studies suggesting one in 6 people experiences a mental health symptom every week: with statistics like these how do we reconcile the cutting of Arts Funding and the government promise to improve Mental Health facilities? I don’t think we can. As I’ve already explored, albeit briefly, there is a clear link between artistic expression and mental health, there is also a direct link between the cuts in Arts funding and austerity measures, does it not then follow that the government sanctioned austerity cuts have an indirect impact on the current Mental Health climate?
There is no obvious solution to this issue, short of a reassignment of key funding to support the Arts. Now more than ever, it is important to support artistic and Mental Health charities, to stay aware of the financial pressures facing creative industries and organisations, and to be mindful of how you choose to donate. It is also important to remember that statistics mentioned above, and find an artistic outlet should you need one.
Written by Esmé Bonner