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Mental Health: Arts-based Group Activities


  • Mental health,
  • Social environment,
  • Community,
  • Facilities & organizations,
  • Healthcare facilities,
  • Schools,
  • Workplace,

Arts-based group activities

Research shows that arts-based activities promote social support and community engagement.1,2 They can foster self-expression1 cultural learning2,3 and exploration of community issues4.  Arts-based activities can promote leadership2 as well as improvements in mental and social health.1-4  They can also build artistic skills along with teamwork and collaboration.1-4

Ways to get started

  • Provide arts-based activities at low or no cost. Reduce costs by recruiting volunteers5,6 and obtaining free space through community centres.
  • Create a comfortable and inclusive environment with no need for formal art education to participate.6,7
  • Recognize and respect community values and traditions in art-based activities.
  • Offer flexible scheduling as participants may have competing priorities.3,5
  • Provide support and training for those with art experience to lead activities.5,6
  • Invite individuals to share their knowledge of local history and culture to spark/inspire art-based projects.
  • Arrange a community event to display/share local art.
  • Celebrate and showcase art work created by local residents to value artists.7
  • Get creative; paint murals, make music videos and short films, build benches out of recycled material, design unique t-shirts.
  • Provide the tools and materials necessary to participate in the strategy.
  • Be culturally sensitive and flexible.

For further action to promote/improve mental health in your community, see

Multi-component community-wide interventions that increase awareness about and provide opportunities for positive mental health in your community will have greater impact than implementing one-off strategies.

Evaluation measures the impact of all the hard work that went into developing a community initiative. Evaluating impact examines:

  1. What you expect to learn or change
  2. What you measure and report
  3. How to measure impact


What you expect to learn about arts-based group activities may include:

  • Learning that the strategy was implemented as planned
  • Increased number of arts-based activities, programs, events in the community and/or specific settings and spaces (e.g., parks, workplaces, schools or daycares, libraries, local fairs, etc.)
  • Increased number of community members participating in arts-based activities
  • Increased perception of social connectedness

Arts-based group activities

  1. Averett P, Crowe A, Hall C. The youth public arts program: Interpersonal and intrapersonal outcomes for at-risk youth. J Creat Ment Health. 2015;10(3):306-323.
  2. Yeh CJ, Borrero NE, Lusheck C, et al. Fostering social support, leadership competence, community engagement, and resilience among Samoan American youth. Asian Am J Psychol. 2015;6(2):145-153.
  3. Fletcher S, Mullett J. Digital stories as a tool for health promotion and youth engagement. Can J Public Health. 2016;107(2):e183-e187.
  4. Fanian S, Young SK, Mantla M, Daniels A, Chatwood S. Evaluation of the Kts'iìhtła (“We Light the Fire”) Project: building resiliency and connections through strengths-based creative arts programming for Indigenous youth. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2015;74(1).
  5. MacLeod A, Skinner MW, Wilkinson F, Reid H. Connecting socially isolated older rural adults with older volunteers through expressive Arts. Can J Aging. 2016;35(1):14–27.
  6. Wilkinson F, MacLeod A, Skinner MW, Reid H. Visible voices: Expressive arts with isolated seniors using trained volunteers. Arts Health. 2013;5(3):230–7.
  7. Phinney A, Moody EM, Small JA. The effect of a community-engaged arts program on older adults’ well-being. Can J Aging. 2014;33(3):336–45.