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Publication Detail
How did female survivors of abuse use the arts to support their mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic? A qualitative exploration of their views
  • Publication Type:
    Conference presentation
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    McKinlay A, Collins L, Fancourt D, Burton A
  • Date:
  • Status:
  • Name of Conference:
    Public Health Science
  • Conference place:
    Glasgow, UK
  • Conference start date:
  • Conference finish date:
Background Gender-based violence is an important public health issue that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Survivors often face barriers when seeking support for mental health and wellbeing and some find therapeutic value in creative arts. We aimed to explore how women with experiences of abuse used art during the pandemic to support mental health and wellbeing. Methods In two small, exploratory, qualitative studies, we conducted semi-structured online interviews with women aged 18 years or older, who had experienced gender-based violence, were currently safe from abuse, and were not living with someone who had been abusive. Women who were unable to speak, read, and understand study documentation in English were excluded. We recruited participants through our networks, third-sector services, and via social media. Interview questions asked participants about interest in the arts as a support tool for mental health after abuse and strategies used during the pandemic to support mental health or wellbeing. ARM analysed the dataset using reflexive thematic analysis using Nvivo. Findings We enrolled 20 women aged 24–61 years; 17 participants (85%) identified as White British. Interviews were conducted between April 16, 2021, and March 1, 2022. Participants reported using drawing, writing, singing, music, painting, and online art or craft groups to support their mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. Participants said they were motivated at the start of the first UK lockdown to engage with creative arts as a way of practising mindfulness and self-reflection; providing calmness, escapism, and distraction; reducing boredom; and combating loneliness and social isolation. Although self-isolating, the social element of online art groups provided valuable opportunities for chat with others who shared similar lived experiences. Interpretation Creative arts provided a valuable resource for participants to self-manage their mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. Connecting with others who had similar experiences of abuse supported coping and feelings of certainty. We conclude with a working example of how online platforms could provide avenues of support and community.
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