The arts, identity and belonging: A longitudinal study

Arts & Health, Society for the Arts in Healthcare

The aim of the research was to elicit and understand how people told their stories of their involvement with a community arts programme promoting mental health. Using a narrative approach, the research included interviews with 11 participants who were interviewed up to three times over a one-year period. The data were subject to a narrative analysis, incorporating thematic, event and relational analysis. Partial individual narratives from four participants are presented. Findings reveal that the project facilitated new personal, social and occupational opportunities for participants. Policies to promote the arts and health agenda in the UK do not adequately convey the significance of the possible outcomes of such initiatives. Whilst social inclusion has been heralded as a positive outcome for people who use mental health services, the desirability and understanding of the concept is not consensually agreed. Involvement in community arts activities may stimulate changes in identity and social belonging.

Theodore Stickley
Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England