Creativity and Mental Health

Caregivers, Patients, and Communication Through the Arts

Mental illness--illness of any kind--can be a source of grief, trauma and isolation for both patients and their caregivers. Creative expression can be a form of therapy for sufferers who compose poetry, write stories, or make paintings. Experiencing the arts, or creating a new work, can also open new lines of communication for people who struggle to communicate in conventional ways, or provide an outlet for people in pain.

Expressionism Through Illness, a pamphlet issued by a hosptial in Aberdeen, highlights the artistic expression of patients; making art provided solace for sufferers of mental illness, and a window into their pain and fear for their healthcare providers. Likewise, Collaborations is the manifestation of a caregiver's attempts to reach his wife suffering from dementia and unable to speak--and perhaps hers to reach him. The chapbook that includes the poem "October Sun" documents the work of the Poetry Project at the Duke University Medical Center Cultural Services Program. Through the Project, prominent North Carolina poets wrote contributions and also visited patients on the ward, saying "I'm poet in residence and I want to read you a poem." The offer of reading and reflection often created a connection between the poet and listener, and the possibility of inspiration and comfort. 

Caregivers, Patients, and Communication Through the Arts