Literature and mental health

Literature and Mental Health

The Literature and Mental Health research cluster is concerned with the value and power of literary works to contribute to the understanding and amelioration of mental health issues across the life cycle, from young people to older adults.

Our work is inherently interdisciplinary, involving collaboration with colleagues in Medicine, Psychology and Sociology. It also boasts a strong track record of impact, enjoying long-standing relationships with external arts organisations and health service providers including The Reader, Comics Youth, Mersey Care and Royal Liverpool NHS Hospital Trust. This research cluster intersects with the Centre for Health, Arts, Society and Environment and connects with the wider University theme of Starting, Living and Ageing Well. 

We investigate the effect of engagement with literature across the ages – from Renaissance poetry to Contemporary fiction – on people living with mental health issues, including depression, dementia, and pain in a range of community and health settings. We are also concerned with methodological innovation to capture the benefits and the experience of literary reading and we seek to harness time-honoured ideas around literature and health to contemporary models and practice of therapy and care. 

Within the cluster the key current research interests are: 

  • Graphic Medicine: the use of narrative art/comics as an effective tool to combat and aid recovery from mental and, occasionally, physical ill-health in young people. 
  • Shared Group Reading: the effect of shared reading aloud on older people in residential care, people living with chronic pain and depression in clinical and secure contexts (including prisons), young adults living with autism, and children recovering from cancer. 
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration with neuroscientists, psychologists and linguistic specialists to devise multi-dimensional approaches to capturing reading experiences (bringing brain-imaging, computational analysis and physiological measures into relation with innovative qualitative approaches). 
  • Relation of literary reading to the therapeutic sciences (psychoanalysis in particular). 

Members of this cluster include: 

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