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Critical distance : how a mental health arts and film festival makes audiences think

Dougall, Rona and Milne, Rosa and Inglis, Greig and Onslow, Helen and Hesnan, Jen and Knifton, Lee (2012) Critical distance : how a mental health arts and film festival makes audiences think. Arts and Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, 4 (2). pp. 124-134. ISSN 1753-3015

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Abstract

This article draws on the views of audiences who attended the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival of 2010 and examines the impact of the festival on audiences' perceptions regarding the arts and mental health. Structured exit interviews were conducted with 53 festival attendees, immediately following festival events at a variety of arts venues. A number of themes were extracted from the interview transcripts via thematic analysis. These themes underscore the utility of the arts for exploring issues pertaining to mental health. For example, interviewees commented on how the arts could be applied to working practice in mental health, and described the gains afforded from sharing personal experiences of mental health through art. Themes regarding the arts' potential for encouraging reflective thinking and changing attitudes were also noted, with particular reference being made to stigma and mental health. The limitations of the study are discussed, alongside future directions for similar research on the impact of cultural activities for social change. Presenting an arts programme that is themed without being message-laden can impact on thinking around mental health that is more empathetic and understanding.