There is an undeniable, positive link between taking part in creative activities and mental health. Whether creativity provides a distraction from the world or helps to explore real world themes in a safe and controlled environment, there is much evidence to suggest that being creative can improve somebody’s mental health.
When the British government announced it would be cutting 50% of funding towards art and design subjects at universities, the plans faced much criticism. Instead of the funding going towards creative subjects, it will instead be directed towards subjects that can support the NHS in future years (science, technology, engineering, etc). However, many people believe that the arts subjects should be prioritised in the same way because of the beneficial effects creativity has on mental wellbeing. For example, creativity helps people express or manage their emotions in a positive way that they may not have been able to do without the use of the arts. Painting, drawing, photography and writing are common ways people communicate complex emotions. Furthermore, the concentration required to create art can absorb your attention to an extent that it becomes a form of meditation. This flow state can increase happiness.
From my own experience, being creative provides an escape from the real world, where I can focus my thoughts and create something that I am proud of. This satisfaction immediately boosts my mood and calms the constant noise of everyday life. There are many other benefits that have not been recognised by politicians when the decision was made. The ability to express yourself and create art is a valuable tool that every student deserves to obtain, so that in the future they have another way to tackle any stress and anxiety.
This is not the first time funding cuts have struck creative subjects. In our own school, which is a specialist art school, photography facilities have been inadequate. The darkroom is a storage cupboard and the studio is small and not exclusively used for photography. As a result, it is hard to be creative. The lack of recognition about the importance of the arts from the government means that, although the physical health of the country is maintained, through STEM subjects (which are science, technology, engineering and maths), students and young people are not getting sufficient education around the topic of being creative. This means that we are often left ignorant of the myriad benefits creativity has on our mental health.
I highly recommend drawing, writing, painting, taking photos, making or playing music, acting or whatever suits you. The benefits of engaging your creative mind are unparalleled and I am confident that during and after you will feel a little happier.