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Ecocultural health and resilience in regional Australian communities: Mitigating the psychological distress of environmental crisis through community arts participation

Coyne, Phoebe (2011) Ecocultural health and resilience in regional Australian communities: Mitigating the psychological distress of environmental crisis through community arts participation. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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By 2020, it is estimated that mental ill-health issues will be the greatest cause of debilitating illness facing developed nations (WHO 2010, Hamilton 2010). The forecast epidemic of mental illness is further complicated by the effect of environmental issues such as climate change on psychological coping and stress mechanisms in people and whole cultures (Speldewinde et al. 2009, Berry et al. 2008).

Psychoterratic (psyche- mind, terra- earth) distress is identified in the concept of 'solastalgia' (Albrecht 2007). Solastalgia is the loss of solace experienced in relation to negatively perceived environmental change in one's home environment, and is evidenced in mental health of regional Australians suffering the impacts of humaninduced (artificial) and natural, negatively perceived environmental change (Albrecht 2005, 2007).

Community arts participation in regional Australian communities demonstrates positive correlations between participation and human health and wellbeing. As a corollary, this thesis proposes that community arts is a suitable vehicle to link the issues of environmental health and community mental health, by employing an ecocultural health perspective.

Ecocultural health is a framework which incorporates human health as a subset of ecological health from the scale of global health to the health of small communities. An ecocultural health perspective is employed to demonstrate the links between human mental health and ecosystem health in regional Australia. Community arts can, it is argued, effectively seek to remediate local ecological health conditions and mental health issues within the community. On the policy development and services delivery level, the employment of community arts to mitigate solastalgia in a time of environmental crisis can be used as an upstream (primary), midstream (secondary) and downstream (tertiary) intervention for non-acute mental health issues. Through acting at multiple scales, community arts can alleviate the burden on poorly or inadequately resourced regional mental health services and regional public health promotion efforts. Community arts also has positive effects on pride and sense of place, which, in turn, has positive effects for social cohesion and policy development in regional Australia.

With growing evidence of causal relationships between decline in human health and detrimental environmental change, there is an emergent role for community arts in remediating negative psychoterratic conditions and environmental degradation.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Albrecht, Glenn
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