Creating Research Ecologies to Advance Transdiciplinary lEarning (CREATE) on arts-based programs through the study of adolescent loneliness

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds


Arts-based mental health research, using creative practices like music, theatre, dance, drawing, poetry is enjoyed by many young people and can bring new insights and understanding about adolescent mental health in ways that traditional, often adult-led, research methods cannot. There is untapped potential to improve understanding of mental health if we could bring arts-approaches together with science and youth perspectives. However, this potential is held back by many research barriers. Scientists can find it hard to understand the processes and outcomes of arts-based research, meaning art-science collaborations face challenges. Youth, scientists and artists also have different vocabularies and research values. We are also without a shared view, across youth, scientists and artists, on how to interpret the meaning of the art produced by young people about their mental health. An understanding of exactly how and why arts-based approaches can be helpful to youth mental health is also lacking. Finally, arts researchers and youth can find the use of standardized measures of mental health, which are popular in science, difficult. Project CREATE will address each barrier by bringing youth, scientists and arts researchers together. We first conduct reviews of the main barriers and potential solutions and take these ideas into Living Labs. These bring youth lived experience into exploration around methods and interpretation with researchers. We focus our methods development in relation to adolescent loneliness as stimulus. Our ambition is to create a large resource hub, for anyone working at the intersection of arts, science and youth voice, presenting teaching tools, frameworks, glossaries, analysis methods and good practice guides to improve and optimise the learning we can glean from youth-informed, science friendly, arts-based research. Wide dissemination will be supported by the National Centre for Research Methods, and other networks, to both academic and non-academic research users.

Technical Summary

CREATE's goal is to improve transdisciplinary mental health research (MHR) across the arts and science by drawing on the strengths of each to inform the other, and by bringing these into dialogue with young people (YP). Arts-based approaches have well evidenced outcomes for youth MH. However, we lack shared vocabularies and methods, that 'make sense' across disciplines and youth, to interrogate their active processes (mechanisms of change) and to analyse the meaning in artistic outputs. Learning from these important and widely used approaches is therefore being constrained. Our objectives are to capitalise on the unique knowledges of art, science and YP to develop methods to unlock the learning potential from arts-based processes. Our interdisciplinary and youth consortium is uniquely positioned to produce an innovative transdisciplinary paradigm.
We address four unmet needs in adolescent MHR:1. resources to help this ecology better understand each other's vocabularies, values, perspectives and methods; 2. robust transdisciplinary methods for analysing artistic outputs of youth arts-based MHR; 3. characterisation and conceptualisation of key active processes in youth arts-based practices to increase transdisciplinary understanding of how these 'work' for MH; and, 4. integration of arts perspectives to overcome existing barriers to the use of standardised MH measures in arts approaches with YP.
We use Living Labs to optimise learning from arts, science and YP and to co-produce and test novel methods and resources addressing each unmet need. Labs build on initial wide scoping reviews of barriers and potential solutions to optimising learning across art, science and youth voice. We anchor the project to adolescent loneliness with learning transferable to other MH domains. Outputs will be made available through a new resource hub to support youth-science-art collaborations and widely disseminated through the National Centre for Research Methods and other platforms.


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