Secker, Jenny, Spandler, Helen, Hacking, Suzanne, Kent, Lyn and Shenton, Jo
Empowerment and arts participation for people with mental health needs.
Journal of Public Mental Health, 6
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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17465729200700024
Empowerment has been described as the ‘holy grail’ of health promotion. This article describes an evaluation of arts participation for people with mental health needs that both measured empowerment outcomes and explored the processes by which positive outcomes were achieved, through six qualitative case studies. For the outcomes study, 62 arts and mental health project participants returned a questionnaire, including a measure of empowerment, soon after joining their project and again six months later. The follow-up questionnaire asked participants to rate the impact of their arts involvement on the issues addressed in the measure. Six diverse arts and mental health projects took part in the case studies. Interviews with project participants explored what they saw as the benefits of arts involvement and how these came about. Results from the outcomes study showed significant improvements in empowerment and were suggestive of a strong causal link with arts participation. Analysis of the case study interviews revealed five processes through which benefits relating to empowerment were brought about. We argue that psychological empowerment is in itself important for people with mental health needs. In addition, our case studies indicate that some arts and mental health projects do empower participants at a social as well as individual level.
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