Can the arts make us healthier? A GP’s perspective

Picture by Tim Cuff 29 4 2004 GP Vik Mohan at Exeter University's Student Health Centre, in Devon.

As a GP that works exclusively with young adults, I am witnessing first-hand the dramatic increase in mental health difficulties that young people are experiencing. The reason for this increase is of course complex and multifactorial. Whatever the underlying reasons might be, though, it is clear that our existing health services are ill equipped to cope with this surge in demand, and adult mental health services often struggle to meet the needs of young people.

What I would love to see is a wider range of services and activities that young people could engage with, services to complement the traditional medical approach to dealing with mental health difficulties. We need approaches that frame mental health difficulties as part of life’s many experiences, to be learned from as well as “fixed”; approaches that tease out and build on our strengths as well as the difficulties we experience; approaches that harness our innate creativity and that reconnect us with our resourceful, creative selves. 

I genuinely believe the Youth Arts & Health Trust is growing into one such service. With its emphasis on engaging people in the arts and the creative process (giving people an outlet and an opportunity to express themselves), and its focus on thinking holistically about wellbeing, YAHT represents just the sort of initiative we need more of!

I wonder how many other GPs like me are also growing more interested in what the arts therapies have to offer too, alongside other psychotherapy services… I’m looking forward to when the service expands and I’ll be able recommend YAHT to my patients!