Medicine & Health

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  • (2022) Watfern, Chloe
    There are studios all over the world where neurodiverse artists work together in a supportive way. This thesis is an inquiry into how art works in two of these organisations—Studio A in Sydney, Australia, and Project Art Works in Hastings, UK. It draws from traditions of narrative inquiry and ethnography to understand the lived experiences of the people at the heart of these studios, and the role that art has played in their storied lives. As such, the thesis contributes to knowledge in three ways: 1) It documents the important practices of makers and organisations whose work has not yet received significant critical or academic attention. It explores the dimensions of these practices that hold potential for reshaping normative understandings of both art and disability; 2) It conceptualises the role of art as a point of connection between neurodiverse people, and as a way of coming to express and understand lived experience. It maps the resonances across different fields that help articulate empathic encounters with and through art; 3) It demonstrates, through its written form, an ecological mode of creative inquiry that resists reductionism—an inquiry that is, like the practices it studies, embodied and relational. It interrogates the value, and ethical implications, of this mode of research. To contribute to knowledge in this way, the thesis assembles many forms of pre-existing knowledge, including the lived experience of its subjects, and the academic literature preceding it. It is grounded in an ecological understanding of cognition, informed by theories that help situate thought in the world, as a dynamic system of relationships between self, others, and the environment. It draws links between disability aesthetics, care ethics, and an ecological approach to empathy, through detailed insights into the social and aesthetic dynamics operating in the work of the two studios. These insights were built up over three years of fieldwork, including over one hundred interviews, and hundreds of hours spent looking, listening, and making alongside artists in the studio. This thesis is an invitation to enter the world of the studios, and of some of the people who work there. It offers a way of paying attention to art, and to other people, that is attuned to the senses, and that allows us to be comfortable with not knowing—or, knowing differently. It argues that this is a practice of ethical importance, in a world where both disability and art are still poorly understood.

  • (2023) Tan, Leona
    First responders report elevated rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to the general community. Workplace preventative strategies are urgently needed to reduce this burden. Research on the prevention of PTSD remains limited, and few studies have been conducted within this high-risk population. Interventions that target modifiable risk factors for PTSD may be promising and evidence is emerging for yoga – a type of mind-body exercise (MBE) intervention – for treatment of PTSD. However, it remains unclear if this type of training may be effective in preventing the development of PTSD in first responders. This thesis aimed to address these gaps by determining (a) what modifiable cognitive-emotional risk factors are associated with PTSD in trauma-exposed first responders and (b) the effectiveness of a workplace MBE intervention in preventing the development of PTSD in active-duty first responders. These aims are met through four studies. Paper 1 detailed a cross-sectional study investigating modifiable cognitive-emotional strategies associated with PTSD in first responders. Paper 2 involved a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled studies evaluating the effectiveness of MBE interventions in preventing the development of PTSD in trauma-exposed populations. Paper 3 evaluated the effectiveness of a workplace MBE intervention through a randomised controlled trial on active-duty first responders. Finally, Paper 4 examined the feasibility, acceptability, and usability of a web-based MBE intervention for first responders. The thesis results show the importance of a maladaptive cognitive-emotional strategies on probable PTSD amongst first responders. MBE interventions showed potential in preventing the development of PTSD in trauma-exposed populations. Further, a workplace MBE intervention was effective in reducing PTSD symptoms in active-duty first responders in the short-term as well in improving modifiable risk factors associated with PTSD. Feasibility, acceptability, and usability were demonstrated for the web-based version of the training. Overall, the results suggest that MBE is a promising intervention to prevent the development of PTSD amongst active-duty first responders. Given the current burden of mental health problems and gap in evidence-based preventative strategies, these findings provide preliminary evidence for MBE as a viable workplace preventative strategy for first responders.