Staying together apart: Artistic approaches to COVID-19

Staying together apart: Artistic approaches to COVID-19

By Evelyn Antony
July 27, 2020


Editor’s Note: In this issue, we are welcoming a student voice from Scotland to give us some ideas about how psychologists there are approaching care during the global pandemic.

“Staying together apart” can prove difficult for those who have relatives in different countries, those who are in long-distance relationships and those with friends from their college years. However, during these unprecedented times, it has become increasingly challenging to stay connected with people locally and nationally, particularly for individuals who are more vulnerable.

How can vulnerable people express their mental-health issues creatively?

Artlink Edinburgh and the Lothians, a Scottish charity that supports young adults through creative solutions, has continued to inspire people by asking them to send photos of their favorite landscapes, clothes and prints, which can be used in future projects – for tote bags, mugs, posters and other graphic designs. The charity also has been active on its YouTube channel, Artlink TV, encouraging people to create glitter jars to reduce anxiety, do nail art and complete wool laser mazes indoors. Initiatives like these encourage people to maintain ongoing communications with their support or community groups and, consequently, feel more positive, as well as thinking “outside the box,” which is essential in sustaining good mental health.

Psychologists and researchers have come together to implement practical differences during the pandemic. Taking to Twitter, the staff of The Psychologist, the British Psychology Society magazine, has brainstormed ideas for maintaining and strengthening social identities including knitting, gaming, meditation and walking. More importantly, the creation of shared identities has been advocated by one of the most affected countries by the virus – Italy. Communal singing from balconies has became an avenue for those worst affected, helping them to feel a sense of empowerment and to stand strong in solidarity.

With cultural and creative industries at a loss (e.g. festivals, museums, art galleries), where have people turned for entertainment? Creative writing in journals is one of the ways in which people are exerting their negative thoughts about the pandemic, as well as keeping a record of their mood changes. Some people have headed to the back catalogues of old magazines to create papier mâché models, as suggested by The Psychologist team. It seems that enhancing skills that haven’t been utilized for a while is becoming more common, particularly among couples going for therapy.

Psychotherapists and counselors say that people who attend couples’ therapy have picked up their paint brushes to express their emotions freely, consequently strengthening their relationship and creative abilities.

Overall, “staying together apart” with support groups, family and friends is better enabled through technology. Furthermore, picking up on hobbies that were once disregarded or expressing yourself through painting can aid feelings of loneliness, confusion and distress – all of which may feature prominently in your life during the current pandemic.

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Evelyn Antony is a third-year psychology (Master of Arts with Honours) undergraduate student studying at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, under the School of Psychology, Philosophy and Language Sciences (PPLS). She is an active community volunteer and works as a project support assistant for the School of PPLS, improve academic services and professional relations. Her email address is em.antony04@googlemail.com

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