Chair and Professor of English Patrick Fuery is part of a research team that has just been awarded $230,000 to create a project using arts to develop strategies for helping returned soldiers of war deal with mental health issues. This particular grant is one of the most prestigious grants given by the Australian Research Council. 

“The other team members are all from universities in Australia, it is important to note that my presence here means that we will also be looking to develop research (and ultimately similar projects) here at Chapman,” said Fuery.

Congratulations Dr. Fuery!
Below is a  short summary of the project.

The difficult return: arts-based approaches to mental health literacy and building resilience with recently returned military personnel and their families.
18.5 percent of military personnel returning from war zones to ‘normal’ civilian life suffer mental health issues, which can lead to family breakdown, homelessness and other problems. Almost 4000 Australian soldiers have returned home from active service in the last decade suffering from combat-related stress and mental health conditions. A 2009 Australian independent government review warned a new generation of veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe mental health disorders will emerge in the next five years, with as many as 1 in 4 likely to need mental health treatment. Mental health issues in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) exist “within a culture of stigmatisation” with veterans often reluctant to admit to having a problem. The independent review identified poor mental health literacy rates in the ADF, coupled with low help-seeking motivation, and reluctance to draw on traditional forms of support e.g. counselling services offered by the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA). The review identified a significant gap in our knowledge of educational interventions for veterans and their families.
Through a significant research project focusing on new arts-based approaches and intervention methods, the CIs will address how veterans seek and gain support for mental health issues. Further, they will build on their substantial record in designing and implementing innovative interdisciplinary arts-based interventions to support people with mental health issues. The aims of the proposed research are to:
  • Develop, implement and evaluate the impact of digital stories in helping veterans and their families acquire mental health knowledge and challenge “cultures of stigmatisation”.
  • Increase engagement of veteran population with mental health literacy initiatives leading to improved help-seeking motivation.
  • Create, implement and evaluate three arts-based resilience programs to support post-deployment serving and ex-serving military personnel and their families. These action research projects will contribute to new professional knowledge-building in the field of applied theatre, arts and health and veterans’ affairs more generally, about the potential efficacy of arts-based practice.
  • Identify and compare the factors involved in the efficacy of arts-based work, by testing programs in two different cultural and military contexts, Australia and the United States.
  • Synthesise an approach to effective interventions in arts-based practice with returning veterans and their families.
  • Engage in consultation with relevant stakeholders involved with the care of veterans and their families and develop policy recommendations for further support.
Arts and health is an emerging inter- and multi-disciplinary area of research, policy and practice. It includes a variety of ways in which the arts contribute to health, well being and health care practice across a range of contexts. Arts-based work covers visual and digital art, performance (music, theatre, and dance) and creative literature. In this proposal it is aligned with concepts drawn from applied theatre  and community cultural development as a practice to initiate change, with a community, through culture.