creative arts and wellbeing

This post is written by Lexi Earl. 

During my visit to Lampton School in Hounslow, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of A-level students. Some were taking Drama, others Music, and many were also studying English Literature. What was most interesting about the combination of students I spoke to was the way the students spoke about the health and wellbeing aspects of creative subjects.

The students were aware of the way creativity can help relieve stress, and might help you cope with difficult situations. The idea of arts subjects being stress-relieving (often in comparison to other subjects) comes up a lot in conversations I have with young people (and is one of the findings of our Wave 1 Survey Report which you can find here).

The students at Lampton, however, linked creativity and creative subjects to health and wellbeing in a way that other students I’ve spoken to have not yet done.

So I think what is quite good is the school, within the creative subjects, let’s it be the creative outlet compared to other subjects. They allow it to be individual. They allow it to be an expression for you to express what is going on or to get emotions out or to portray what you want to portray, with guidance of how you do it.

If you go to university and things get too much, it shows you there are healthy ways out there to deal with the stress, to deal with the anxiety which can help. Like music therapy or art therapy or drama therapy. It is a way for you to have an outlet and can help for the rest of your life.

Doing something, escaping your troubles.

The students spoke about how creative subjects are both a potential escape from the stress of life, but also a method to finding one’s way back. One student explained:

It does take you away from problems. But you can use it to your advantage. Put a different spin on it. It’s your escape but it is your route back as well. It’s more like guidance because it’s always there. Even if you have a lot of stuff and you’re really stressed and you can’t think clearly, you can go back to making your own piece of music, go through it, maybe implement what is going on in your life and it helps you to come out of things. I suppose also with Drama, although I don’t do it, it lets you see different perspectives and people. You get to look at how people deal with things. It creates a way to look at something. Instead of looking at one side, you can take a step back, ‘okay that is how I see it but this person will see it like that’ and then put them together and think the best route forward would be to do this.

Another student explained about work they had done in their Drama class and how that helped them see different perspectives on issues of mental health:

In Drama we did a mental health unit and obviously all of us experience mental health in our own ways so in the final performance, we could see the way it affects others.

One student explained what he thought the benefit of taking a creative subject (in his case, Music) at A-level did for him personally.

I’m doing Economics, English Literature and Maths, and to have Music, I wouldn’t say it’s easy; it is something that is challenging. It is something I enjoy doing. Especially if we are rehearsing, it’s great because you don’t have to touch a pen or a book. Do what you like and enjoy doing. It is something that is completely different. I think it keeps you healthy because your mind is doing one thing there and then something completely different. It keeps you on your feet.

The Lampton students brought up an important idea regarding mental health, young people, and the way creativity can help address mental health issues. This is hugely relevant at a time when newspapers are reporting rising mental health issues amongst young people.