null Participation in art activities can strengthen a person's ability to recover from setbacks and continue their life.

The UN has warned of a global mental health crisis resulting from the coronavirus epidemic. In Finland, the prevalence of mental health problems was already increasing before the epidemic, writes Anu Ubaud, Editor-in-Chief (column in Helsingin Sanomat, 24 May).

Mental health problems often begin with a setback: the person feels that they cannot cope. Coping is usually about resilience, in other words the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt to changes and continue your life.

According to Edith Grotberg, a researcher in child development, the sense of security offered by good interpersonal relationships lays the foundation for the development of resilience. Resilience in children can be developed by supporting early interaction between the child and the parent.

In Tampere, for example, circus activities for fathers and their babies are offered through the child health clinic. Participatory circus activities promote the development of a relationship of trust between the parent and the child.

Resilience can be built by participating in arts. Experimenting with several optional solutions, which is central to artistic activities, can help individuals to think about their situation more flexibly and thus find alternative solutions to their problems.

In arts, creating something new is also associated with uncertainty. You approach curiously something that you do not yet have any knowledge of or skills in. This way, artistic activities can build courage and patience as well as tolerance of uncertainty and failure.

As our lives are hectic and pull us in different directions, arts offer an opportunity to calm down, concentrate, gather our thoughts and reflect on life's questions in front of art and using the means of art. In their book Art as Therapy, philosophers Alain de Botton and John Armstrong write that art helps to balance our lives. Art does not automatically build resilience, however; a personal relationship with art is needed. Its development starts with encountering arts and participating in them actively.

High-quality pedagogical interaction is needed to establish and develop a positive personal relationship with art.

This is a key task for arts education at school and basic education in arts. The Finnish Observatory for Arts and Cultural Education has recently also highlighted the role of recreational activities at schools for reaching especially those children and young people who have no hobbies and who run the greatest risk of exclusion.

The opportunities of adults and older people to participate in arts, regardless of their ability or life situation, should also be supported, note researchers of the ArtsEqual research project coordinated by the University of the Arts.

Tighter integration of participatory art activities into services promoting wellbeing and health is a way of strengthening people's resilience and, more generally, cultural well-being.

The perspective of cultural well-being should also play a larger role in arts education aimed at adults in adult education centres.


Kai Lehikoinen

Director, Center for Educational Research and Academic Development in the Arts (Cerada), the University of Arts

This article was originally published in Helsingin Sanomat on 1 June 2020.