SICK! Festival, part one

Dr Clare Edge on her involvement in SICK! Festival: Mindscapes, with a contribution from Chloe Davenport, Psychology and Counselling Student at University of Salford.

SICK! Festival stands up for and shines a light on issues and untold stories of people and communities surrounding mental ill health and physical ill health. Since 2013, the festival has collaborated with artists, practitioners, and researchers in Manchester and around the world. This year it teamed up online with collaborators in Rotterdam and I had the privilege of participating in the session as part of this year’s ‘Mindscapes’, called ‘The Big Debate’. This compellingly and comprehensively discussed the role that culture and cities have in community wellbeing through city design and public art. 

The debate illuminated the benefits of inclusivity in city design and public art by involving a diverse wealth of cross sections in communities such as older people, particularly with Manchester being an ‘Age Friendly City’. I also visited a public art initiative as part of the Mindscape programme in the form of a physical exhibition ‘Manchester Mood Drawings’. Here people’s stories about issues affecting health and wellbeing such a living with panic attacks, homelessness, work and financial worries, as well as the benefits of green space in local parks (Salford Buille Hill Park) for wellbeing are brought to life by artist Jan Rothuizen across the Manchester Metrolink network. 

This is a powerful exhibition that explores health and wellbeing through individual’s stories and the role of communities in people’s experiences. The festival is participatory and harnesses eudemonic wellbeing via self-expression and empowerment of people and communities via the medium of art, which has shown to have a positive impact on psychological wellbeing (Swindells et al., 2013). This should appeal to all aspiring Psychologists concerned with wellbeing particularly as the role of culture and arts will be central to our community wellbeing coming out of the current pandemic.  

One such aspiring Psychologist, Chloe Davenport, a Psychology and Counselling student who is exploring wellbeing and the impact of increasing time spent on social media for her dissertation project, was invited to comment on the conference session ‘The Digital Effect’.  This is what she had to say:

Social media has been integrated into the everyday lives of individuals all over the world, and there has been an even bigger increase in social media usage over the past year since the Covid-19 pandemic. The impact of this increase in social media usage on a person’s wellbeing has been well established by psychologists, showing social media to have positive (Drouin et al., 2020) and negative effects (Rosen et al., 2013) on an individual’s wellbeing. The MINDSCAPES Conference session: ‘The Digital Effect’, elaborated effectively on this issue, by discussing the potential impacts social media may have on our mental health and the way we see ourselves. In particular, P.A. (Princess Arinola Adegbite) Bitez, a Jamaican-born Nigerian Poet, songwriter, filmmaker and student based in Manchester captured my interest. I could relate to her with regards to my dissertation project on social media, wellbeing, and body-esteem in female students during the pandemic. The thoughts and experiences relayed further enhanced my knowledge and understanding on the issue, by elaborating on her own personal experiences with regards to how social media has impacted her own mental wellbeing positively, as well as negatively. Specifically, she expressed how she had previously compared her life against other people’s lives on social media, and by this increase of social comparison, her levels of wellbeing had massively decreased as a result of this. This can be related to Social Comparison Theory developed in 1954 by Leon Festinger which states that upward social comparison occurs when people compare themselves to others who they believe are “better off” than themselves, which decreases levels of self-esteem and wellbeing. The use of social media is increasing every day, especially in the younger generation, and there is a lot of evidence-based research suggesting that social media can have a huge negative impact on wellbeing, which emphasises the importance for current/future psychologists to further investigate this area of social media and wellbeing, as the negative effects on the younger generation may get worse overtime with the ever-growing use of social media. 

Dr Clare Edge, Lecturer in Psychology at University of Salford

[email protected]

- More on SICK! Festival to come next month.

References

Drouin, M., McDaniel, B., Pater, J., & Toscos, T. (2020). How Parents and Their Children Used Social Media and Technology at the Beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Associations with Anxiety. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, And Social Networking, 23(11), 727-736. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2020.0284

Rosenberg, M., Schooler, C., & Schoenbach, C. (1989). Self-Esteem and Adolescent Problems: Modeling Reciprocal Effects. American Sociological Review, 54(6), 1004. doi: 10.2307/2095720

Swindells R, Lawthom R, Rowley K, Siddiquee A, Kilroy A, Kagan C. (2013). Eudaimonic well-being and community arts participation. Perspect Public Health.;133(1):60-5. doi: 10.1177/1757913912466948. 

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