The number of people suffering from different types of mental illnesses has been growing consistently. According to Vigo, Thornicroft, and Atun (2016) in the year 2015, out of the top 20 global disease burdens, five are mental illnesses; depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. This is a reflection of the growing prevalence of the mental illnesses. From as early as the mid-20th Century, various pharmaceutical and therapeutic methods for treating or managing mental illnesses have been explored. One method, that has been subject of debate for many years, is the use of art as a treatment or to manage of different types of mental illnesses.
As demonstrated in the article by Adamson (1963) from as early as the 20th Century, there was increasing evidence that art could be therapeutic and enable practitioners to manage or treat some disorders such as stress and anxiety among others through the use of art therapy. Art therapy has demonstrated effectiveness in stress management. Crawford and Patterson (2007) opined that the engagement in painting or other artistic works takes the mind of the patient off issues and in so doing reduces stress and restores some form of calmness in individuals with mental illnesses.
Further, art therapy, according to Heenan (2006) increases the level of brain activity and creativity, which is important in brain development and fosters management or treatment of mental health problems in patients. On the other hand, Adamson (1963), a position echoed by Crawford and Patterson (2007) observed that the completion of works of art, gives the patient a sense of accomplishment, which is important in improving self-esteem, and improvement in the quality of life of a patient. Most recently, even though the field is relatively underdeveloped, different forms of art, such as music, are also being integrated into therapy and alternative medicine for different types of illnesses, including mental illness (Gallagher, & Steele, 2002).
Adamson, E. (1963). Art and mental health. Mental Health, 22(2), 53-56.
Crawford, M. J., & Patterson, S. (2007). Arts therapies for people with schizophrenia: an emerging evidence base. Evidence-Based Mental Health, 10(3), 69.
Gallagher, L. M., & Steele, A. L. (2002). Music therapy with offenders in a substance abuse/mental illness treatment program. Music Therapy Perspectives, 20(2), 117-122.
Heenan, D. (2006). Art as therapy: an effective way of promoting positive mental health?. Disability & Society, 21(2), 179-191.
Vigo, D., Thornicroft, G., & Atun, R. (2016). Estimating the true global burden of mental illness. The Lancet Psychiatry, 3(2), 171-178.