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Minds Matter Magazine Volume II Issue I Arts & Media<br />

Theme<br />

Advisor<br />

As an educator, there are few things more gratifying than stepping back and enabling students<br />

to independently realize their own creative academic projects. As Theme Advisor, I have had<br />

the pleasure of witnessing the assembly of an issue by a remarkable team of undergraduates<br />

at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Over the past year, Minds Matter Magazine’s student<br />

journalists, graphic designers, illustrators, and editors have worked hard to explore the vast<br />

and challenging issue of mental health. I commend their dedication to presenting some of the<br />

many ways that the arts and media influence perceptions of mental health and illness.<br />

Why “Arts and Media”? For some readers, this issue’s focus on creative activity may<br />

seem like a whimsical, maybe even trivial, approach to the topic of mental health. However,<br />

the growth of arts-based health research methods and interdisciplinary fields of study<br />

like Health Humanities indicate how the human imagination—that is, how we imagine what<br />

mental health and illness is or could be—can enrich conventional therapeutic approaches for<br />

people living with conditions like depression, or enhance health care relationships by making<br />

research accessible beyond academia. In this issue, several articles and creative contributions<br />

address the therapeutic benefits of the arts, including an interview with Workman Arts, a<br />

Toronto-based organization dedicated to empowering artists with mental illness and addiction<br />

issues. A growing evidence base further indicates that participation in the arts is a low-cost,<br />

low-risk, and practical enhancement of conventional mental health care. Arts- and humanities-based<br />

approaches to health may even have benefits for health care workers and informal<br />

caregivers themselves, a phenomenon that UK-based health researcher Paul Crawford calls<br />

“mutual recovery” (2013).<br />

The arts hold the potential to delight,nourish, soothe, and heal. But the therapeutic potential<br />

of the arts must not overwhelm another equivalent reality: that the arts are a powerful<br />

mode of communication that shape, for better and for worse, what it means to live with mental<br />

illness. A range of critical and creative contributions to this issue therefore attend to art’s<br />

unsettling potential to confront, antagonize, intimidate, even traumatize its audience—effects<br />

that may be enhanced by popular art forms that are widely disseminated through media platforms<br />

old and new. As someone with a research background both in the humanities and the<br />

health sciences, I have always been mystified by people who describe the arts and humanities<br />

as “soft” (as opposed to the so-called “hard” sciences). Make no mistake: art is spiky, barbed,<br />

and caustic just as often as it appears otherwise. The essays, poems, and articles of this issue<br />

grapple with this risky reality of art’s relationship to mental health. I encourage you to read on<br />

and consider how we might take better care of ourselves—and each other—as a result.<br />

Dr. Andrea Charise<br />

Assistant Professor of Health Studies,<br />

University of Toronto Scarborough<br />

Associate Faculty,<br />

Graduate Department of English,<br />

Core Faculty, Collaborative Graduate Program in Women’s Health<br />

University of Toronto<br />

Reference:<br />

Paul Crawford, Lydia Lewis, Brian Brown, Nick<br />

Manning. “Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery<br />

in Mental Health.” Mental Health Review<br />

Journal, 18.2 (2013): 55-64.<br />

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