Creating Change: Using the Arts to Help Stop the Stigma of Mental Illness and Foster Social Integration

University of Washington, School of Nursing, Spokane, WA 99201, USA.
Journal of Holistic Nursing 02/2009; 27(1):57-65. DOI: 10.1177/0898010108323011
Source: PubMed


Stigma is a social justice problem that plagues persons with psychiatric disabilities, their families, and society. It fuels the fear underlying discrimination; undermines consumer self-efficacy; and blocks rehabilitation, recovery, and social integration. The author hopes to create a passion for change and suggest a way that everyone can help stop stigma. This approach is simple: to nurture the artistic talent many clients possess and connect them with public venues for their artworks. On display, too, will be the "ability" in "disability." This will reduce stigma while building self-efficacy and empowerment. Anecdotal evidence supports this hypothesis. However, research is needed; a design for a study to test this hypothesis is described. Significantly, an antistigmal arts intervention can be conducted by any aware practitioner; one does not need to be an art therapist or have any background in art, only a desire to make a difference and resources on which to draw.

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    • "The use of artwork from the Ingram Collection engaged participants and the public in a high quality aesthetic experience . Using resources in this way , to widen participation and foster community involvement , effectively changes attitudes and promotes social integration ( Lamb , 2009 ) . "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: The three year “Ways of Seeing” project was hosted by an award-winning museum and included adults with long-term diagnoses associated with mental health and physical impairments. The participants were involved throughout the project, preparing and curating artwork for a major public exhibition. Methods: Qualitative data were collected to explore meanings of the project from the perspective of participants, the project manager and the public, using interviews, participant observation and comment cards. Results: The project was successful in engaging the participants who had previously often felt excluded from mainstream art spaces. Findings about the benefits of arts participation echoed other studies but participants highlighted some difficulty with the ending of the project. Public perceptions were positive, acclaiming the thought-provoking quality of the exhibition. Interviews and participant observation revealed the importance of egalitarian leadership, mutual trust and the absence of any therapeutic agenda. Conclusion: Developing similar projects would offer opportunities to foster diverse artistic communities and empower people with experiences of disability and mental health conditions.
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    • "It is increasingly apparent that arts-based therapies such as visual art, music, drama, poetry, horticulture, dance and storytelling can be important vehicles for patients to express their thoughts, emotions and ideas in symbolic fashion. It is the process of creation, not the product that remains the focus of such intervention (Lamb 2009). "
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