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Arts participation, mental well-being and social inclusion: Mixed methods evaluation of an Open Arts studio for people with mental health needs

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Participatory arts projects are thought to increase mental well-being and social inclusion for people with mental health difficulties. This article presents a one-year evaluation of the Open Arts studio at Hadleigh Old Fire Station (HOFS) in Essex, England, established to provide opportunities for mental health service users to carry out art-making independently with professional support. The evaluation was a mixed-methods design, with qualitative and quantitative strands. A total of 23 studio members completed measures of mental well-being and social inclusion at baseline and follow-up, and scores increased significantly over time. Members’ comments indicated increased social support, confidence, motivation and mental well-being, in addition to decreased social isolation. Despite small sample sizes, this evaluation provides promising evidence of gains in mental well-being and social inclusion. The question of longer-term benefits beyond the studio placement remains to be addressed, but results add further support to the use of participatory arts in promoting mental health and well-being.
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Keywords: arts participation; mental health; mental well-being; participatory arts; social exclusion; social inclusion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Anglia Ruskin University and South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust 2: Anglia Ruskin University

Publication date: December 1, 2014

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  • The Journal of Applied Arts and Health serves a wide community of artists, researchers, practitioners and policy-makers evidencing the effectiveness of the interdisciplinary use of arts in health and arts for health. It provides a forum for the publication and debate within an interdisciplinary field of arts in healthcare and health promotion. The journal defines 'health' broadly which includes physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, occupational, social and community health.
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