The arts support rural towns through creativity and community mental health

Local governments are struggling to help their communities deal with the growing mental health crisis. According to the World Health Organization Anxiety and depression increased by 25% globally in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, with young people and women particularly affected. At the same time, the health care workforce is shrinking, affecting the number of providers available to treat mental illness. Mental Health America He estimates that there are 350 individuals for every mental health care provider in the US. General advice of the surgeon The epidemic of loneliness and isolation From May 2023, it describes loneliness and isolation as “serious risks” to health.

Small towns in rural areas face more challenges in connecting residents to the services they need. Looking for solutions, some local leaders are exploring how to use the healing power of the arts to address citywide mental health challenges.

How can the arts improve mental health?

The arts have a positive impact on public health by addressing issues related to: Common damage, Racism, Social isolation and isolationAnd Chronic disease. According to a study from the University of Florida, the arts may be shrinking. Symptoms of depressionImprove cognition and memory and improve general well-being In adults. Adolescents are involved in arts and cultural activities It appears to reduce loneliness, Risk of substance useAnd Behavior and attention problemsAlso few have been reported Anti-social or criminal behavior and improving self-control.

Urban Innovation Feature: Rhineland, Wisconsin (pop. 8,000)

In the year In 2021, Over It, a group of high school youth, began building a skatepark to support the city of Rhinelander, WI, in an effort to address social isolation and mental illness among youth. After one of its founding members died of mental illness, Over It Participated in the meeting of the Rhineland city council to renew their petition.

Meanwhile, Marshfield Clinic Health System, a local community health care provider, conducted Community health needs assessment The revealed 87% of those surveyed did not have easy access to mental health services. According to the Oneida County 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey[1], 51% The students reported that they rarely or never received emotional help when needed. 16% Consider student suicide in the past 12 months.

[1] Tortora, Owen, McCoy, Kathryn, and Frederick, Carl 2021 “Oneida County 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results (High School Version)”. Madison: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Members speak about it at the Rhineland City Council meeting. (Credit: ArtStart)

Local arts organization ArtStart stepped in to help with their efforts by organizing Overnight. In the year In early 2022, ArtStart, the City of Rhineland and Marshfield Clinic Health System partnered to join the NLC and One Nation One project. Improving community health and resilience through the arts Initiatives to create partnerships across government, arts and health sectors to achieve improved public health outcomes and increase social cohesion.

This multidisciplinary partnership was born out of a need to try something new to support mental health. “When you think of mental health, you think of going to health care. That’s not the case now. In the U.S., we have a shortage of mental health providers. We have to approach mental health issues from other angles,” says Jordyn Fink, community benefits coordinator at Marshfield Clinic Health System.

On top of it, members and community supporters discuss possible sites for building a new skate park (Credit: ArtStart)

ArtStart has supported youth activists in the following ways:

  • In collaboration with the city, a Community-wide Feasibility study;
  • Connecting on it success city, Public artists with experience in skatepark advocacy and youth leadership development;
  • Creating a pop-up skate park and temporary public art pieces;
  • Organize a ski park field trip to review elements of Rhineland Park in Minneapolis;
  • Creating Youth art studio space at ArtStart;
  • Help Above plans to obtain 501(c)(3) non-profit status;
  • Connect with other community-wide mental health resources mobilize resources, coordinate and raise awareness;
  • Connecting youth with local artist mentors;
  • Connecting youth with training opportunities In design, podcasting, video and audio production.

As a result of this partnership and beyond, The city has drawn up preliminary plans for a new skate park.. “I hope we can help people with their mental health and show them they’re not alone,” said Over It member Angel Quant. The city has allocated initial funding from the city budget and will soon begin a fundraising campaign. Since partnering with ArtStart, the project has engaged more local and regional partners, bringing more resources to the table and creating more opportunities for community engagement.

Why should cities care about playing a role in the mental health of young people in their communities?

“The teenage years are crucial for developing empathy, building a sense of community and learning how to overcome challenges. Providing a place for children to gather, at no cost to them, that is safe and secure. [sends] A clear message that we care about what they think of us will create a strong bond with our future leaders.”

Rhineland Council President and District 7 Alderperson Eileen Daniels;

“[Mental health issues] It affects a large number of young people and adults. Knowing the warning signs and what to look for can save someone’s life.

Above him is member Victoria Achterberg, 19 years old

How can other small or rural towns get started on this work?

  • Connect with local health systemsSpecifically, community health centers to understand the scope of need and barriers to care.
  • Connect with community-based organizationsSuch as art and cultural institutions and other social service and education non-profit organizations, to understand community resources and opportunities to build on existing work.
  • Involve your city’s public or non-profit local art agencyTo help identify, support and build capacity for artists, creative arts therapists, and arts and cultural organizations.
  • Determine action priorities: How can your city help address needs or reduce barriers? See: Developing a workforce development initiative; increase public facilities to support social cohesion; supporting awareness of existing resources; Supporting the expansion of telehealth services, etc.
  • Explore funding sourcesincluding new federal resources available to expand mental health services.
  • Connect with NLC! email For more information.

In rural communities, the key is leveraging resources and partnerships. Civic engagement and art go hand in hand and can often raise awareness of pressing issues and community challenges, bring people together and create opportunities to think outside the box on how to get things done,” says Melinda Childs of ArtStart. “The key is collaboration and partnership; find out where your goals align and play to each partner’s strengths!”

[1] Tortora, Owen, McCoy, Kathryn, and Frederick, Carl 2021 “Oneida County 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results (High School Version)”. Madison: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Authors: Georgia Gemper (NLC), Melinda Childs (ArtStart), Jordyn Fink (Marshfield Clinic Health System), Kari Michalowski (Alderper, Rhineland-Palatinate), Marette Wester (Americans for the Arts)

About the author

About the author

Georgia Gemper is a Senior Program Specialist, Health and Safety, Leadership, Education, Growth and Development at the National League of Cities.

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