Arts and creativity for people with severe mental illness. A rapid realist review

Hannah Zeilig, Corinna Hackman, Julian West, Melanie Handley, Jasmin Plant

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This review inquires into the role of participatory arts and creativity for people who live with severe mental illness (SMI). A rapid realist informed approach was taken to explore what works from the perspectives of people with SMI, artists and facilitators. This review was intended to be responsive to limited time and resources for knowledge development in an area which has been relatively neglected. The literature review and stakeholder consultation group at the centre of this review revealed that the arts and creativity have an important role for people with severe mental illness in generating outcomes of social connectedness, an identity beyond diagnosis, self belief and compassion (for self and others). Long-term community arts projects are particularly valued by participants but even shorter term initiatives can be worthwhile. This review also
revealed some of the difficulties experienced in maintaining community arts groups including conflicting expectations from participants and problems with funding. Finally, we identified gaps in knowledge, including a lack of understanding about the role of every day creativity for people with SMI and an absence in questioning how arts and creativity for everyone might be positively impacted by those with an SMI.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe Baring Foundation
Number of pages30
ISBN (Print) 978-1-906172-59-6
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2022


  • Participatory Arts
  • Serious Mental Illness
  • Realist review


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