About the Research

A key contribution of the arts to society can be its power to reduce the stigma of conditions that people are ashamed of, such as depression. The value of art may be especially important for marginalized groups, such as African Americans whose mental health stigmas are compounded by stigmas about their race. As we have previously shown, art about mental health can enhance individual and collective efficacy to address stigma. But often, people are reluctant to share their own stories publicly.


For this purpose, it can be helpful to use research-based theatre, presenting stories collected for research purposes, to impact mental health stigma. Science has only begun to document the value of art for this purpose. This research-based theatre project will use real stories from African Americans struggling with depression. This project will

contribute to field-wide knowledge about the value of this form of art in addressing stigma within this population.

Research-based theatre brings depersonalized, aggregate data and statistics to life. It encompasses theatre approaches such as “verbatim theatre,” “performed or performance ethnography,” “documentary theatre,” and “ethnotheatre/ethnodrama.” It is used in health sciences research for data collection, and to present research findings in an embodied way.


The purpose of this project is to understand the impact that research-based theatre has on depression-related stigma and collective efficacy among South Los Angeles community members, service providers and clinicians who serve this community using a sequential mixed methods approach to answer two research questions:

 (1) Will exposure to a research-based play about African Americans’ experiences with depression impact depression-related stigma among participants?; and,

 (2) In what ways might the shared experience of theatre build collective efficacy around decreasing depression-related stigma among participants?

These research questions intersect with current research on using community-based approaches to decrease depression-related stigma. Research-based theatre is an underused approach in interventions that target low-income, African American populations. This project will contribute new knowledge in this area, and will use the arts as a way to engage the community around depression and depression-related stigma.


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