“Art is a wound turned into light”
Painter and sculptor
Isolation, lockdown, illness, bereavement and concerns over financial insecurity caused by Covid have undoubtedly heightened mental health strain.
The Centre for Mental Health has predicted that in England “up to 10 million people (almost 20% of the population) will need either new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the crisis” (https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/publications/covid-19-and-nations-mental-health-october-2020).
People with preexisting mental conditions are experiencing a worsening of their issues due to isolation but also to reduced availability and access to care.
The pandemic contributed to shed light on a matter that for too long we preferred to ignore: mental ill health affects people regardless of class, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic background.
To avoid social stigma, people too often learn to live with feelings of anxiety, stress, distress, burnout and depression as a result of everyday routine and responsibilities or traumatic events.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of health as “complete physical, mental and emotional well-being” acknowledges that there is more to health than the absence of physical illness.
Although the arts can’t be, and don’t have the ambition to be a front-line health service, it’s getting increasingly clear how they can function very effectively in a complimentary role.
Many studies in the last decades have proven the connection between artistic engagement and enhancement or healing of physical conditions and mental and emotional injuries. “More specifically, there is evidence that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer of the creative efforts of others or as an initiator of one's own creative efforts, can enhance one's moods, emotions, and other psychological states as well as have a salient impact on important physiological parameters.” (The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/).
“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.”
The arts have also a fundamental role in the recovery process of damaged socio-political spheres and after collective shocks.
Great Britain realized the importance of this during the Second World War when it created the Arts Council of Great Britain, and other countries followed the example in the next decades.
In time of crises, the arts are a window into the world and bear witness.
When artists engage with their political and social contexts, their critical role in terms of social conscience, moral critique and collective action becomes visible. They provide an essential outlet for the range of heightened emotions we feel: confusion, frustration, anxiety or hopelessness.
Most importantly, the arts remind us of the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
The arts have a central rather than marginal role to play in the existence and development of societies, countries and international relations in traumatic moments as well as at all times and in all places.
Times of crisis or turmoil test our communal ability to make sense of a new normal or lack of stability. A rift in the collective consciousness that everyone struggles to frame.
That is the moment when art has the power to bring people and communities back to awareness, sometimes quietly, sometimes dramatically. But it is always instrumental in the effort of preserving our future as societies.
For this, the arts are educationally critical and socially essential.
Beside being a marker of social identity, art is also a potent instrument to build or rebuild personal and individual identity.
It can play a pivotal role in people’s definition of who they are, of who they have been and who they wish to become.
Art is potent and challenging. It makes us question who we are and triggers exploration about who we want to be.
There are also times when the arts function within a society as tools for resistance, social changes and restart.
The philosophical and sociological movement The School of Frankfurt, considered art as an emancipating force urged to jar and shock the masses out of their complacency.
Shifting back to present time, we recognize how this function of art is still truly necessary. In fact, we keep experiencing situations when the arts must perform provocatively to confront discriminatory ways of thinking and behaving legitimated in some systems, to challenge the status quo and to act as mirrors to communities, countries and people in order to reform and rebuilt societies.
We should increasingly advocate the essential role that the arts play in our experience as individuals and on the fabric of our society. Art and culture can indeed be a means to achieve ends beyond the immediate intrinsic experience and value of the art itself and they always should be considered a strategic individual and collective resource.
Both creating art and experiencing art as an audience, have the ability and power to develop alternative schemes of thinking that are invaluable tools to make sense of ourselves and of the world, to act with resilience and restart.
“There is so much wisdom locked up in the stories women never tell.”
ELAINE WELTEROTHJournalist, editor and author
Women, no matter what age, nationality or social background, have always and universally embodied values of endurance and resilience.
Women symbolize birth and rebirth not only for their capacity to procreate, but also and especially for their, both innate and as a result of social demand, inclination to offer protection and survival to the people and social groups they share their existences with (starting with close family to continue with group of relatives, work environment and communities they are part of). Despite this, we are still reluctant to protect women in the same way. Societies, including western systems, are always hesitant when it comes to defend women’s possibility, desire and right to build or rebuild their own identity, outside of the role society has chosen for them.
Because of this, every woman who courageously manages to restart, in any sphere of her life, should be valued by society for what that is: an extraordinary act of resilience.
Looking at the past, in time of social crises (wartime is a clear example) women have always proven to be a driving force in the recovery process.
This is even more evident in the present days. In fact, the rapid spread of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown in the majority of countries has highlighted the often undervalued but critical leadership role that women play in managing both their professional lives and home care work, particularly in times of emergency.
In addition to the domestic burden (sometimes exacerbated by the risks of violence, abuse or harassment) women are also economically more heavily affected by the pandemic.
“We are in the thick of the ‘shecession’.” (https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201021-why-this-recession-disproportionately-affects-women).
Due to persistent gender inequalities across many dimensions, women’s jobs, businesses, incomes and wider living standards are more exposed than men’s to the widespread economic fallout.
The worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey & Company claim that “the magnitude of the inequality is striking: Using data and trends from unemployment surveys in the United States and India, where gender-disaggregated data are available, we estimate that female job loss rates due to Covid-19 are about 1.8 times higher than male job loss rates globally, at 5.7 percent versus 3.1 percent respectively.”(https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/covid-19-and-gender-equality-countering-the-regressive-effects).
Wise governments should place women’s leadership and contribution at the heart of resilience and recovery from the pandemic.
, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stated: “I urge governments to put women and girls at the centre of their efforts to recover from Covid-19. That starts with women as leaders, with equal representation and decision-making power.” (https://www.un.org/en/un-coronavirus-communications-team/put-women-and-girls-centre-efforts-recover-c,ovid-19).
“If you could do it all again, would you do it all the same?
Is there something that you’d tell your former self?
There were those that wished they’d spun upon a jukebox
There were pirates who had never seen the sea
But the one recurring theme, the one recurring dream they had
Was to be whatever they wanted to be
To be Pyotr Tchaikovsky
To be free…”
(Flags – Coldplay)
Singer and Songwriter