Aside from the well-documented connections between artistic expression and holistic health for us all, nowhere is its transformative effect more consistently evident than at the intersection between art and health care, and in mental health most profoundly. As artists and health practitioners work together toward more positive health outcomes and the wealth of research grows, the day is not too far distant when arts will be recognised as a mandatory part of the health sector.
Our first significant foray into this space came in 2002, when the suicide crisis amongst young people in Millicent prompted a partnership with the SE Regional Health Service. Terra-Art was an open studio where scores of young people received training in life skills alongside art and design. It gave them a safe place to call their own, to articulate how they felt, access to professionals to look after both art and mind, and friendships not associated with detrimental habits. In 2007, Terra-Art produced Red Tape, a larger than life public video projection with profound impact.
When a structural change in Health saw Terra-Art slip through the cracks, a new partnership with Country Health SA Mental Health was born operating out of Port Lincoln, from which emerged the publication and training program Bringing it all together: Guidelines for Arts and Mental Health Projects, still in use as part of our processes in the mental health space.
Today our partnership with Country Health has evolved to embrace our philosophy of keeping artists at the centre of everything we do, and embedded staff can produce beautiful projects like Spinback in the Riverland.
We commission bespoke participatory artworks in integrated mental health units statewide, which open up new pathways for health providers and provide solid data on the direct benefits to consumers. In 2018, playwright Emily Steel will examine the experiences and challenges of living regionally as artist-in-residence in the mental health inpatient units and in three communities to produce a theatre work to be shared across the state.
Written and researched by Jo Pike for Country Arts SA