Which role does art play in the COVID-19 pandemic?

pandemic

(United Nations COVID-19 Response, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by  Mr. Bruno Pellozo Cerqueira, a third year medical student at the Federal University of Alagoas, Brazil. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Amidst the worldwide COVID-19 crisis, social isolation has been an important measure to reduce its transmission.  A wide array of countries have adopted it, in order to protect the people, and it has created, as a consequence, a number of unexpected situations, such as empty beaches and soccer stadiums and Pope Francis saying prayers to an empty St. Peter’s Square. Although efficient, a question arises: how’s the mental health of the world population being impacted?

It’s a topic of most concern, as social isolation and the fear of infection directly affect the people’s welfare, which makes it also an important topic to consider, and not only the disease’s pulmonary symptoms. As such, it’s necessary to search for methods of preserving the mental health of the isolated population. One could, for example, reach out to art, because as said by Friedrich Nietzsche: “art exists so that reality does not destroy us”.

There are those who say that drawing and painting are activities destined only to children, which raises a question towards it’s possible positive effect on the well-being. If it was true, why does art therapy exist and why is it used as a therapeutic activity? Art is a way of creating, feeling, expressing yourself and it creates a link between your internal self and exterior, connecting them. Analyzing Nietzsche’s quotation, art allows the mind to talk to reality, so they can reach an agreement and, in the end, create a mutually positive result for both. Augusto Cury says: “being happy is allowing the child inside you to be happy and free” – in these social isolation situations, everyone should let their inner child run free.

A pencil, a piece of paper and a human being – these three, combined, could result in a lot of different others combinations. Infinite results, even, such as the power of creativity. Feel free to practice art in these daunting times and let the positive effects speak for themselves. If you have children or elderly people at home, it’s a great opportunity to engage in an activity together. There’s no age requirement to express oneself through art, nor to be happy. Children could even feel more loved when adults engage with them in activities that some consider being only for young people and the elderly could reminisce joyful moments from their youth years.

In Maceió (Brazil), the IFMSA Brazil UFAL, together with a project called Sorriso de Plantão (which means Smiles on Call), created an initiative called “Colour to Smile” that has distributed color pencils and drawings to be painting by children in hospitals, as a way of diminishing their stress, because the play therapy activities normally engaged by Sorriso de Plantão are suspended due to the pandemic. Therefore, art can and should be used to promote the improvement of mental health, through overall wellbeing improvement. Search for happiness, because as stated by the Brazilian poet David Alves Mendes: “art is a form of happiness”.

References

  1. Abbing A, Ponstein A, van Hooren S, de Sonneville L, Swaab H, Baars E. The effectiveness of art therapy for anxiety in adults: A systematic review of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials. PLoS One. 2018 Dec 17;13(12):e0208716. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0208716. PMID: 30557381; PMCID: PMC6296656.
  2. Aguilar BA. The Efficacy of Art Therapy in Pediatric Oncology Patients: An Integrative Literature Review. J Pediatr Nurs. 2017 Sep-Oct;36:173-178. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2017.06.015. Epub 2017 Jun 30. PMID: 28888499.
  3. Bozcuk H, Ozcan K, Erdogan C, Mutlu H, Demir M, Coskun S. A comparative study of art therapy in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and improvement in quality of life by watercolor painting. Complement Ther Med. 2017 Feb;30:67-72. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2016.11.006. Epub 2016 Nov 24. PMID: 28137529.
  4. Ciasca EC, Ferreira RC, Santana CLA, Forlenza OV, Dos Santos GD, Brum PS, Nunes PV. Art therapy as an adjuvant treatment for depression in elderly women: a randomized controlled trial. Braz J Psychiatry. 2018 Jul-Sep;40(3):256-263. doi: 10.1590/1516-4446-2017-2250. Epub 2018 Feb 1. PMID: 29412335; PMCID: PMC6899401.
  5. Im ML, Lee JI. Effects of art and music therapy on depression and cognitive function of the elderly. Technol Health Care. 2014;22(3):453-8. doi: 10.3233/THC-140803. PMID: 24704654.
  6. Regev D, Cohen-Yatziv L. Effectiveness of Art Therapy With Adult Clients in 2018-What Progress Has Been Made? Front Psychol. 2018 Aug 29;9:1531. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01531. PMID: 30210388; PMCID: PMC6124538.
  7. Sorriso de Plantão. Colorir para Sorrir: arteterapia para crianças hospitalizadas [Internet]. Brasil: Sorriso de Plantão; 2020 Apr 29 [cited 2020 Apr 18]. Available from: http://www.sorrisodeplantao.com.br/noticia.php?id=137
  8. Waller D. Art therapy for children: how it leads to change. Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2006 Apr;11(2):271-82. doi: 10.1177/1359104506061419. PMID: 17086689.

About the author

Bruno Pellozo Cerqueira, a third year medical student at the Federal University of Alagoas, Brazil. Affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations of Brazil (IFMSA Brazil), engaged in the Crisis Committee, recently set up to promote remote and digital actions during social isolation in the COVID-19 pandemic. He is vice president for external affairs at IFMSA Brazil UFAL. Besides that he acts as a clown doctor in oncopediatrics for the Smiles on Call ("Sorriso de Plantão") project. Mental health is a topic of interest, always looking into ways to promote it in his city, state or country.

 

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