Arts, Culture and Community Mental Health in Community Innovation Review

November 5, 2018

October 4, 2018

Author(s): Jamie Hand, ArtPlace America, Tasha Golden, University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences

Stigma2 is a priority issue in public health and health promotion because it creates powerful obstacles to health care access and to protective factors, such as education and social connection.3 For example, when a condition or experience is not “talk-about-able,” prevention and treatment information can become difficult or impossible to circulate.4 Stigma can also lead individuals to conceal conditions or experiences by avoiding treatment and isolating themselves—which generates additional significant health consequences.5 And because stigma silences many issues and groups, it limits public health’s understanding of a given community and its health. When inadequate knowledge influences local service, resource, and funding decisions, the result may be the perpetuation of health challenges and inequities.

Fortunately, arts and culture have a long history of cultivating spaces for the portrayal and discussion of challenging and stigmatized aspects of life experience. Artists, installations, and performances often take communicative risks that model or stimulate expression, action, and new norms. This can shift participants’ and viewers’ sense of being alone, or of being unable to articulate or share their experience.

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