Lessons from a national mental health arts festival

Aldam, Gail and Dickie, Rob and Knifton, Lee and Davidson, Larry (2017) Lessons from a national mental health arts festival. American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 20 (3). pp. 298-310. ISSN 1548-7776 (https://doi.org/10.1080/15487768.2017.1338069)

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The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival has evolved over the last 10 years into one of the world’s largest mental health events, engaging more than 30,000 people each year. The model of the festival will be outlined and the evolution traced over three distinct phases: from its inception as an anti-stigma campaign, to a broad-based social movement harnessing grassroots activism, and finally, to achieving international reach and artistic recognition. The first phase details the inception and early incarnations of the festival, building upon Allport’s contact theory model that the most effective way to reduce stigma is through positive personal contact with someone in a valued social role. The learning demonstrated that the festival could achieve large-scale reach among the most marginalized communities and increase positive perceptions and intentions among audience members. As the festival evolved into its second phase, artists and activists began to develop events and grassroots partnerships throughout Scotland. A feature of the festival at this stage, as people with and without mental health diagnoses worked together, was that many events explored "mental health identities" in a broader sense, and this led many of those involved to reframe their ideas of mental health and illness. The third phase explores the impact of the festival at a broader social level.