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Int J Bipolar Disord. 2014 Jan 21;2:1. doi: 10.1186/2194-7511-2-1. eCollection 2014.

Using theatre to address mental illness stigma: a knowledge translation study in bipolar disorder.

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Division of Mood Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, 2255 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, V6T 2A1 Canada.
Saint Mary's University, 923 Robie St, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3C3 Canada.
Crazy for Life Co., P.O. Box 1354, Sechelt, British Columbia V0N 3A0 Canada.
School of Social Work, University of British Columbia, ARTS Bldg, 3333 University Way, Kelowna, British Columbia V1V 1V7 Canada.
Université de Saint-Boniface, 200 Avenue de la Cathedrale, Winnipeg, MB R2H 0H7 Canada.
University of Toronto, 399 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 2S8 Canada ; University Health Network, 190 Elizabeth Street, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2C4 Canada.



Reduction of the stigma of mental illness is an international priority; arts- and contact-based approaches represent a promising mode of intervention. This project was designed to explore the impact of a one-woman theatrical performance on attitudes towards bipolar disorder (BD) on people with BD and healthcare providers.


A playwright and actress who lives with BD developed a stage performance - 'That's Just Crazy Talk' - targeting stigmatizing attitudes towards BD. Prospective, longitudinal and sequential mixed methods were used to assess the impact of the performance on people with BD (n = 80) and healthcare providers (n = 84). Qualitative interviews were conducted with 33 participants (14 people with BD and 19 healthcare providers).


Quantitatively, healthcare providers showed significantly improved attitudes immediately post-performance, but this change was not maintained over time; people with BD showed little quantitative change. Qualitatively, both people with BD and BD healthcare providers showed enduring and broadly positive changes. A theatrical presentation designed to reduce stigma produced immediate impact on healthcare providers quantitatively and significant qualitative impact on people with BD and healthcare providers. Additionally, the utility of using mixed-method approaches in mental health research was demonstrated.


Bipolar disorder; Knowledge translation; Mixed methods; Narrative medicine; Stigma; Theatre

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