World Mental Health Day: Arts in Medicine to Host Therapeutic Events

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Blossom by Esan Mayowa

Rebecca Ejifoma

The Arts in Medicine Fellowship through the AIM Projects is set to host a series of virtual therapeutic events and activities to commemorate the World Mental Health Day on October 10 this year.

The event further seeks to increase awareness of the opportunities inherent in art as a form of diversional therapy for patients.

According to the Director, Arts in Medicine Fellowship, Special Projects for World Mental Health, Oyin Talabi, “We are hosting activities that are not only therapeutic outlets for anyone living with mental health ailments but also for their families and caregivers.”

She emphasised that they wanted everyone to engage so that empathy builds and “We all heal together”.

On the theme “Removing stigmas around Mental Health”, the schedule of activities for this year’s event includes a therapeutic dance for the whole family, a stretch and meditation session, a practical session learning to use photography as therapy, and a talk on mental health.

To cap the event of the day, there will be a dance performance and a juried exhibition themed “Mental health through the lens of nature”.

The director continued that they have had submissions from artists far and wide. “We are very excited to be curating this and sharing it with everyone.”

This year, all the activities are going to be virtual as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He added, “On the bright side, virtual sessions allow for participation from the comfort of your home, office, or whatever location you may find yourself”.

According to Talabi, since 2013 Arts in Medicine Projects has been at the forefront in Nigeria utilising art as a medium of intervention and therapy for patients living with mental health disorders.

She added: “Mental health is a growing concern for the whole world and Nigeria is not exempt. Not enough conversations are held on the topic of mental health and there are still prevailing stigmas attached to mental health disorders, here in Nigeria and Africa at large.”

In a country with a teeming population of about 206 million persons and with a projected mental health disease burden of 20 to 50 million according to WHO, Talabi said it was appalling that there are only eight federal Neuropsychiatric hospitals in the country.

She stressed that this is compounded by the fact that psychiatrists are literally one in a million, as there are fewer than 150 Psychiatrists in the country. “Nigeria equally operates on a 62 Mental Health Legislation.

“These factors hamper any meaningful positive change in the protection and promotion of the mental health of the country’s populace.”

She, however, said there is light at the end of the tunnel. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made this year an especially tough one for all of us and many people have been affected in different areas.”

Her words, “For us, World Mental Health Day is not just about creating awareness about mental health, it is about equipping people with the therapeutic outlets that are available in and through various art mediums.”

The healing and therapeutic benefits of the arts in healthcare have long been established and Arts in Medicine Fellowship as a movement in Nigeria have been bringing arts to health care spaces since 2013.

It now has over 300 who are equipped to facilitate sessions from songwriting, origami, and mindful coloring to deploying digital art solutions tailored to suit the needs of different audiences in the healthcare space, and hundreds of Nigerians have benefitted from our past projects.

In his perspective, the Founder, Arts in Medicine Fellowship, Kunle Adewale, identified mental health illness as a universal phenomenon.

He hinted: “We must continue to stay engaged in advocating, educating, providing medical care and services and facilitating creative engagements that can help our community members to experience healing and well-being in all facets of life.”

For Adewale, mental health is a collective effort, hence, no one should be stigmatised because of their mental health conditions.

Meanwhile, the Arts in Medicine projects are initiatives of Tender Arts Nigeria which commenced in 2016 to help transform the healthcare experience for patients, their family members, and caregivers.

The organisation has been in regular partnerships with NGOs, diplomatic missions, government agencies, and the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Yaba to bring these interventions to life.

Some of its past projects included: murals for mental health, music for mental health, arts for stress relief, and a myriad of other projects, employing the underutilised properties of art as a positive mood inducer, esteem boost, mood and behaviour-enhancer, channel for self-discovery, and reduction of anxiety, stress, and depression.