Students at Shenton College and Christ Church Grammar School have embraced a pilot project using arts engagement to enhance community mental wellbeing.
The four-week Schools Challenge was part of the Good Arts, Good Mental Health (GAGMH) Project, a cross-sector initiative led by The University of Western Australian in conjunction with State Government, philanthropy and community partners.
Students in years 10-12 designed campaign outputs with artists and the GAGMH team to promote the arts as a mental wellbeing strategy for the wider community, while also expanding their own arts-wellbeing knowledge.
Young Australians are one of the most at-risk groups for the development of mental health conditions with almost 40 per cent of people aged 16-24 having a mental health disorder in the last year.
Project lead Dr Christina Davies, Director of UWA’s Centre for Arts, Mental Health and Wellbeing WA, said the Schools Challenge had been a resounding success, with students rating the program as enjoyable and something they would recommend to others.
“One student summed up the experience by saying she was ‘proud’ of her campaign output and that art made her feel ‘strong’,” Dr Davies said.
She said the GAGMH program had grown out of strong evidence that recreational arts engagement enhanced mental wellbeing.
Dr Davies was the lead author of The Art of Being Mentally Healthy, the only Australian academic paper cited in Australia’s new national cultural policy launched in February. Her study showed that two hours per week of arts engagement is linked to improved mental wellbeing.
Dr Brid Phillips, Schools Challenge Manager, said mental health issues are on the rise, but there is strong evidence that just like sport, taking part in the arts for entertainment or as a hobby can positively impact community mental wellbeing.
She said the Schools Challenge pilot program had been so successful that it will now be incorporated into the Good Arts, Good Mental Health program.
The principal funding partner for the GAGMH Schools Challenge is The Minderoo Foundation. The GAGMH project is supported by the Western Australian Future Health Research and Innovation Fund (an initiative of the WA State Government), The Ian Potter Foundation, the Minderoo Foundation, the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, CircuitWest and St John of God Health Care.