Doctors in the U.K. Will Prescribe Art to Support Mental Health

So, let's say that you're not feeling so great one day. You go to the doctor and describe your symptoms: you're tired, can't seem to get out of bed, you're feeling a little isolated and lonely. And your doctor hands you a prescription for... dance classes? It may seem a little unconventional and some may not take their doctor seriously at first), but...

Soon, doctors in the United Kingdom will be able to prescribe "artistic experiences" instead of pills for a number of patients. While this effort will be primarily aimed at the elderly, or other people who have limited social contact, General Practitioners will also use this as a form of treatment for individuals struggling with a variety of social and mental health related issues. We know that dance is great for your brain - but it's amazing to see it integrated into a national healthcare system.

This 'loneliness strategy,' announced several weeks ago by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, is based off statistics that state up to 200,000 people currently residing in Britain "have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month" (Daily Mail). The Prime Minister is encouraging postal workers to check on people on their routes that are at risk for loneliness, with the hope that they can be encouraged to see their medical practitioners and engage in some sort of artistic-related activity.

Other prescribe-able classes include: cooking classes, ballroom dance classes, walking clubs, art groups, Their hope is that taking part in such artistic endeavors will not only encourage more social behavior, but play a part in preventing a number of diseases such as depression. Prime Minister May says that she also hopes the "social prescriptions would reduce demand on the NHS (National Health Service) and improve patients' quality of life" (Mirror Online). 

Montréal has also incorporated similar practices, as some patients are now allowed to visit their Museum of Fine Arts free of charge. Here's hoping that art is one day incorporated into our healthcare system!

About the author

Anne Luben has performed works by notable choreographers such as Donald McKayle, Bill T. Jones, Jiri Kylian, Idan Cohen, Alex Ketley, and Summer Lee Rhatigan, among others.