If you’re thinking of taking a new direction in your career, have you considered the variety of mental health jobs that are available? According to the charity MIND, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Additionally, mental health problems cost employers in the UK £30 billion a year through lost production, recruitment and absence.
There is a lot of scope to forge a new career in this sector and it’s important to realise that mental health issues are sometimes not discussed openly. Many aren’t a physical condition that you can see and people aren’t always willing to come forward and talk about the state of their mental health.
There are many different types of mental health jobs including support, therapies and counselling, and other forms which have probably never crossed your mind. There are also some new trends happening at the moment that are creating a stir among mental health professionals, like the new adult colouring books that seem to be popping up all over the place.
Think back to your childhood and the joy you would feel sitting with a colouring book, the smell of sharpened pencils or crayons, or the rainbow of felt tip colouring pens. Do you remember how you would get lost in that world of pictures as you painstakingly tried to stay within the lines and make that picture the best one yet?
At the moment, adults are turning their attention to colouring and to fulfil this craze, new colouring books have been published with adults in mind. But is it more than just a hobby or activity to pass the time?
In an article from The Guardian published in August this year, therapists gave their opinions about the use of colouring books and whether they were a form of art therapy. Some recognised the therapeutic benefits of adult colouring books, like Drena Fagen, art therapist and instructor at the Steinhardt School of New York University, who said “I don’t consider the colouring books as art therapy; I consider the colouring books as therapeutic, which is not the same thing. Any creative endeavour that can in some way help somebody discover something about themselves or find a space that makes them feel safe and comfortable or allows them an opportunity to be with their own thoughts, I don’t see how we can criticise that. It seems like it’s only bringing good things to the world.” Shannon Bennet, from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York who works as an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry also showed her support. She said, “Although there isn’t the research support for colouring specifically as a treatment, it can be part of a larger plan for coping with uncomfortable feelings.”
Turning our attention to mental health issues, while art therapy has helped people with conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and dementia, many people with similar problems have also turned to adult colouring books to help them cope with their conditions. When we colour, some interesting things start happening.
– focuses concentration.
– can help divert attention away from negative issues and provide more productive, safer alternatives.
– can have intellectual benefits too as it helps focus, problem solving, concentration, organisation and attention.
– uses both the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
– helps the development of fine motor skills.
– allows the brain to switch off from other thoughts and pay attention to what is happening in the moment.
– can be calming as it has been known to have positive effects on heart rate and brain activity.
– help people who may have a heightened state of worry, panic or hyper vigilance
– be a calming activity which reduces the effect of the fight or flight response.
– can help you rediscover the pure joy of just losing yourself in an activity.
– allows you to take some time out from stress and worry.
– can have recuperative effects on the body and remove you from stressful situations, allowing you to relax and rest.
According to an article written for Medical Daily even though adult colouring may not be like art therapy, it still may have some therapeutic properties. Although the reasons why these benefits occur may not have been fully researched, some have attempted to formulate theories like neuropsychologist Dr Stan Rodski, who has created his own adult colouring books. He said “Colouring elicits a relaxing mindset, similar to what you would achieve through meditation.” Another scientist, Dr Joel Pearson from the University of New South Wales said, “Concentrating on colouring an image may facilitate the replacement of negative thoughts and images with pleasant ones” and that colouring may, “occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well. Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.”
There are a variety of therapies which promote mindfulness and being present in the moment, and although colouring books may not be a form of art therapy, they are certainly perceived by colouring advocates to create the conditions of being mindful and helping them to reduce stress, ease anxiety and allowing them to live in the moment.
If you decide to work in the mental health sector, perhaps you can find out for yourself just how adult colouring books can have an impact, not just on the physical and emotional symptoms of those you work with, but on their overall well-being and ability to manage their mental health conditions.