How Art Improves Mental Health Outcomes Across Driverse Populations

The Wall Street Journal posted the question: “Is Looking at Art a Path to Mental Well-Being”? The consensus is yes, it does. You do not have to create art to be positively affected by it. Viewing art alone can reduce our stress levels and give us moments of serenity. As a visual artist and photographer, I tend to lean toward that in times of hardship. I also listen to relaxing music that helps disarm my overactive alarm system and nervous system. What do you do to relax or calm down from stress? I am interested to know.

Hospitals🏥 have also begun to really take art and nature🌄 seriously when it comes to improving patient outcomes. The Scientific American wrote an excellent article titled “How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal” that is worth checking out. “Let’s be clear,” Cooper Marcus says. “Spending time interacting with nature 🏞 in a well-designed garden 👩🏽‍🌾 won’t cure your cancer or heal a badly burned leg. But there is good evidence it can reduce your levels of pain and stress—and, by doing that, boost your immune system in ways that allow your own body and other treatments to help you heal.”

As a minority, there is clear evidence that we suffer from mental health issues at a higher rate. Veterans do as well, but that is more predicted just due to the nature 🏞 of the job. An alarming 22 veterans take their lives every day. Rates of mental illnesses in African Americans are similar to those of the general population. However, disparities exist in regard to mental health care services. African Americans often receive poorer quality of care and lack access to culturally competent care. Only one-in-three African Americans who need mental health care receive it. Recently, however, there has been an uptick in suicidal ideations and attempts. The recent suicide of Chelsie Kryst has sent shockwaves through the world. This was someone who seemed to “have it all”.

Another alarming statistic is that Black people with mental health conditions, particularly schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and other psychoses are more likely to be incarcerated than people of other races. In other words, they are getting beat up for disorders instead of treated. There is also a stigma in the community that shuns needing help or looking weak. Despite my success in life and hundreds of accolades, the moment I open up about mental health I am “soft”, weak, or some other label. It could not be further from the truth. Being transparent and vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness.

There are also many providers that do not look, act or relate to minorities. They may dismiss their experiences or minimize them. This causes minorities to stop getting care and feel ashamed to have tried. Many suffer from borderline personality disorder which results in extreme moods, anger, and emotional dysregulation. NFL Star Brandon Marshall has created a platform to address it, after suffering from the condition himself. Many are high functioning, so it is a hard one to understand or detect until something goes terribly wrong.

In conclusion, mental health affects people of all races and classes, but there are higher rates in certain communities or demographics. Art is great to help people recover, inspire them to live to the next day. It also helps to show people that any pain can be turned into a passion. There is hope after all.

Further Readings: