Using Theatre to Modify Stigma: A Knowledge Translation Study in Biopolar Disorder

Mental illness stigma is a significant barrier to quality of life in people with bipolar disorder, and has been identified as a priority by government and non-governmental organizations in Canada and abroad. Both use of the creative arts and direct-contact based approaches have been demonstrated as effective methods for reducing stigma. As part of a ‘Knowledge to Action’ study funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) researchers at the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto supported the  development, dissemination, and evaluation of a theatrical performance - ‘That’s Just Crazy Talk’ -  by an established playwright and actress Victoria Maxwell (who lives with BD) to illustrate how self-stigma and social stigma manifest, and how to recognize and respond to these forms of stigma. That’s Just Crazy Talk is a thoughtful and funny one-woman play that looks at both the light and dark side of living with bipolar disorder, anxiety and psychosis. Based on Victoria’s lived experiences of bipolar disorder, it describes one woman’s journey of coming to terms with mental illness, within herself and in her family. The researchers also aimed to evaluate the impacts of a ‘lived experience’ theatrical performance on attitudes and understandings of mental health issues. Two target audiences were recruited for this study: people living with bipolar disorder and healthcare providers. Overall 84 healthcare providers, 80 people with BD and 3 individuals who identified as both, and more then 350 general audience members attended the performance over the course of three, live performances in Vancouver and Toronto in 2011.
This project is one component of a 2-year Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Knowledge-to-Action project awarded to CREST.BD researchers in 2009 led by co-lead investigators Drs. Erin Michalak (University of British Columbia) and Sagar Parikh (University of Toronto), with a special role for “Decision-Maker” Victoria Maxwell and co-investigators Jehannine Austin, Rachelle Hole, Mark Lau, Jamie Livingston, Roumen Milev, Barbara Pesut, Melinda Suto, Greg Murray, Sheri Johnson and Steve Hinshaw. Partners include the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT), the University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry and the University of British Columbia Department of Psychiatry. Learn more about all three components of this translational research study.
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