Fran E. Wright, Programme Director UNESCO Club Vienna 
In March 2020, the Professional Association of Austrian Psychologists (BÖP) commissioned Karmasin Research to conduct a representative survey of 1,000 people between the ages of 16 and 69.
Only ten percent surveyed believed that persons with mental illnesses receive sufficient help in Austria. In the worst case, 89 percent would seek professional help, but 65 percent reported they could not afford self-financed treatment.
At a press conference in July, Austria’s Health Minister Anschober announced a broad discussion for improvements in autumn: “The corona crisis has shown in many areas of society where we have strengths and where we have to catch up. (…) It became apparent that we have a very strong healthcare system. However, there are gaps in every health system, just like in any other system … We still have gaps in treatment, especially in terms of access and funding, and we will take them seriously to fill in gaps.” Care levels for mental and physical illnesses must be the same.
Beate Wimmer-Puchinger, BÖP Presidium member said: “It takes an overall concept (…) Mental illnesses must not become a poverty trap.” She formulated three priorities: broadly addressing mental illnesses in order to reduce the stigmatization of those affected, bundling resources in the field of psychiatry, psychologists and psychotherapy, and “affordable” help for patients.
Due to the social and existential crises that have arisen we can assume that issues related to mental health have intensified during the corona crisis and will continue to impact into the foreseeable future. Inter-sectoral outreach therefore becomes more an imperative than an option according to Fran Wright, Programme Director of UNESCO Club Vienna, an Affiliate Member of WFMH, and Board Member of International Theatre Institute UNESCO Centrum Austria.
The WHO publication Intersectoral action between the arts, health and well-being summarizes the evidence for the multiple ways in which it has been demonstrated that arts programmes can benefit the health agenda. Arts programmes in medical education and in health-care organizations have been found to improve the mental health and well-being of personnel and to reduce stress and burnout. Similar programmes in the community for informal caregivers have been found to improve resilience and coping. Working together, the social, educational, behavioural and communicative potential of engagement in the arts can be harnessed.
According to the BÖP project team of “Kunstraum Psychologie” (Art Space Psychology) jointly organized with the Austrian Academy for Psychology, “Art can influence seeing and viewing in many ways and is often associated with innovation and the search for unconventional solutions and new insights.”
The following activities were implemented by UNESCO Club Vienna (UCV) during COVID-19 lockdown to stimulate discussion on social distancing and emotional well-being.
World Theatre Day 2020. In Japan, hikikomori are reclusive adolescents or adults who withdraw from society and seek extreme degrees of isolation and confinement. Estimates suggest that half a million Japanese youths have become social recluses, as well as more than half a million middle-aged individuals. The play Hikikomori was due to premiere in Vienna on the day the country went into lockdown. The video produced with TheatreArche contributed greatly to discussion in the media on isolation.
International Dance Day 2020. Danse Macabre COVID -19 redefining social norms. “Avoidance of other people has become the daily danse macabre of modern life, because it’s no longer just a matter of good manners but also, conceivably, life and death…At its’ heart is a paradoxical and utterly novel idea of public solidarity: in order to unite as a community we must remain apart as individuals.” Andrew Anthony, Journalist
The Power of Colour: all life matters. Artist Christoph W. Band transformed a terrace on the Danube into a kaleidoscope of shapes and colours. It now stands as a 7×5 meter tribute to the resilience of the human spirit. Visitors were invited to ‘occupy” a space defined by colour and borders to exchange experiences on the psycho-social impact of the pandemic.
CALLE LIBRE Street Art to minimize stress and anxiety for theresumption of operations at the Friedrich Fexer education campus. The guideline system covers a total area of over 1,300 m². The division into rainbow colours enables elementary school children to maintain required safety distance while facilitating orderly admission to school quickly and playfully.
NOW Working Group Trauma Surviving, an interdisciplinary and international group of experts in the field of trauma survival. The psycho-educational booklet “Sleepless” funded by UNESCO Club Vienna, is being actively promoted during the pandemic.
Further activities are planned.
- Member of the European and the World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations, NGO in formal associate (ASC) relations with UNESCO and in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).