No.25 in our countdown of '70 Ways Art Improves Our Health' highlights how art can offer much-needed escape from the mental and physical strain of caring…

In the UK, 6.5 million unpaid carers look after an ill or disabled friend or family member. But a survey published for Carers Week 2018 has revealed that 72% of them have suffered from mental health problems themselves, with both the physical and mental strain of caring and inadequate support seriously affecting their wellbeing.

The survey of 7,000 people was conducted by Carers UK, who are now calling for urgent support. More than 50% of carers who answered the survey said they expected that their mental health to worsen within the next two years, with way more than a third saying they felt their poor mental and physical health would stop them being able to care in future.

Without realising, I spent an hour screenprinting. And only after I realised I'd forgotten my back pain.

Participant in a Paintings in Hospitals creative workshop

In our 70 Ways Art Improves Our Health series, we’ve already explored how viewing and making art of many kinds can provide a wide range of benefits to mental health, even for those of us with pre-existing mental health problems. The What Works Centre for Wellbeing published their report this year, which found that visual arts for adults with mental health conditions can reduce levels of depression and anxiety; and increase self-respect, self-worth and self-esteem.

At Paintings in Hospitals, we regularly invite both carers and care staff to make the most of any free time they have by taking part in our creative activities. Our services are open to everyone as we know that these minutes of respite are just as vital to the wellbeing of the family and friends of a patient as they are to that of the patient themselves.

It's a chance to find yourself again, you get lost being a carer and being creative and being part of something helps you remember who you are.

Member of Carers Creative Activities, Equal Arts

There are also many other arts organisations and groups around the country that provide creative activities specifically for carers. Equal Arts are a creative ageing charity supporting older people and those living with Dementia in Gateshead and across the UK. Their Carers' Creative Activities offer a series of sessions for carers to learn new creative skills, which has seen them set designing at the Theatre Royal and helping make improvements to St Edmund’s Park with the Shipley Art Gallery.

Group creative activities allow a few moments of respite from a carer’s daily life. They offer the chance to meet new people and to learn and do something new. They are safe spaces to express emotions, to share experiences, and most importantly for a carer to take a little bit of time to look after themselves.

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