‘A contributing life’: Living a contributing life as ‘a person’, ‘an artist’ and ‘an artist with a mental illness’
Gwinner, Karleen, Knox, Marie F., & Brough, Mark K. (2015) ‘A contributing life’: Living a contributing life as ‘a person’, ‘an artist’ and ‘an artist with a mental illness’. Health Sociology Review, 24(3), pp. 297-309.
The Australian National Mental Health Commission, recently adopted a focus on ‘a contributing life’ to acknowledge the importance of full and meaningful participation in community life. This concept compels new conversations about the complex nature of every day and whole of life experiences for people with lived experience of mental illness. This article reflects on narratives by eight artists with lived experience of mental illness, in Australia to understand how opportunities are available through art for people with lived experience of mental illness to lead a contributing life. A twelve month study gained insight of how participants saw themselves, made meaning and sense of their experiences, and how each person asserted their choice to be an artist. This article shares a common premise held by the participants to choose a “way of life as ‘who I am’”. This declaration emphasised the relevance of living a contributing life as ‘a person’, ‘an artist’ and ‘an artist with a mental illness’. A number of conceptual issues are raised in light of the findings, not least how opportunities for participation are framed and available, or otherwise, to live a contributing life.
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