Four very different ways non-drug treatments are boosting mental health

This has been a big week for social prescribing.

Although Qa Research has been exploring the benefits of this form of preventative healthcare for some years, it has finally made it to the top of the political agenda.

In a speech to the King’s Fund, Health Secretary Matt Hancock talked of the life-enhancing power of the arts and social activities.

We should value them, he said, “because they’re essential to our health and wellbeing”. And he announced the launch of a National Academy for Social Prescribing.

This would “be the champion of, build the research base, and set out the benefits of social prescribing across the board, from the arts to physical exercise, to nutritional advice and community classes”.

It would be a “champion for non-drug treatments”. So we thought we would share four very different non-drug treatments that are being used to treat people with mental health problems.

1. An app to help teen anxiety


How do we reverse the epidemic of mental ill health among young people? One solution would be to go where all teenagers hang out – on their phones. The Black Dog Institute in Australia has developed the WeClick phone app and is about to trial it among 12 to 16-year-olds. The app “guides users through activities to build their skills, knowledge and resilience”.

2. Art to combat poor body image

Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. An exhibition opening in the Zebra One Gallery in November 2018 is using art to bring this often hidden problem into the open. One of the featured artists Scarlet Isherwood said she hopes the exhibition “allows people to step back and look at these things that aren’t healthy, and be able to kind of see that there’s nothing wrong with them”.

3. A museum trip – on prescription

From a gallery to a museum – the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. From November 2018 doctors can prescribe trips there to enjoy the paintings and sculptures. One of the doctors behind the scheme “says a trip to the museum can benefit people with conditions from mental illness and eating disorders to diabetes and high blood pressure”.

4. Tackling loneliness in the library

At Qa, we’ve done a lot of research of the debilitating power of loneliness, which can lead to all sorts of mental and physical illnesses. At the Reading Agency they are tackling this through befriending scheme Reading Friends, run through a network of libraries. Nearly nine out of ten participants “agreed the programme had ‘increased opportunities for social contact’.”


If you are interested in our work with Clinical Commissioning Groups and public health teams in the areas of preventative health care including social prescribing, contact Qa Research Richard Bryan, Managing Director: