Theatre and Mental Health

Theatre and Mental Health

The regional project Theatre and Mental Health is promoted and financed by the Emilia-Romagna Region, and it involves the Departments of Mental Health of Bologna, Reggio Emilia, Ferrara, Piacenza, Forlì, Cesena, Modena, Parma, Rimini and Imola, that coordinate and manage the project activities.

This region-wide working group, which also works at a local level, is a real point of strength of the project, and it continues the commitment that began a few years ago to a shared project  development that involves interplay and mutual enrichment, both aimed at “touching together” mental health-related issues. In particular, the primary and most important interplay is the one between art and health – amazingly flourishing in our region, as witnessed by the several theatre productions of the Departments of Mental Health. Moreover, over the past few years, the same Departments, seeing the possibilities offered by social networking, actually enriched this kind of interplay and mutual exchange by taking actions at a local level, but always with shared objectives and aims. The cooperation among the various Departments and the burst on the scene of art in the mental health care facilities gave life to the Theatre and Mental Health project. The project also involves the creation of a platform for communication and objective implementation, the web portal

The theatrical activities and the shows promoted are powerful elements for transformation that are able to bring to the community – and not only to the patients involved – a number of personal, cultural and social benefits.
As to the personal benefits, the artistic work – which may involve physical and vocal training, memorisation, rehearsals, stage design and setting-up, scriptwriting, creation of shows and consequent management of emotions- is an important tool for both prevention and treatment of mental illness. Theatre is also an occasion to activate different personal skills at different levels, such as: improvement of memorisation skills, self-esteem and self-confidence; strengthening of identity; improvement of hetero-perception, of the ability to be part of a group and to play different roles. Because it can produce changes on the single individuals and their surrounding environment, theatre can also have a significant influence on the perception of mental distress, as well as on the strengthening of the support networks and on the involvement of the community and of the families. In other words, culture, combined with the creation of shows that can be presented to an audience other than mental health professionals, can help improve social welfare. At a cultural level, thanks to the Theatre and Mental Health project, theatres and theatre companies started to collaborate, involving new audiences and creating new ways for creation and culture.  The exchange between art and psychiatry is therefore prolific for both; in fact, it once again demonstrates how mental health finds its realisation in the welfare of the community. The involvement of artists is thus essential in the process of exchange of the theatrical experiences that took place in the mental health care services. The challenge we are now facing is to make this exchange dialectic, and to give new life to a world – the theatre world – that is too often described as too distant from the ethical and social function that was historically attributed to it.


  • encourage the exchange of experiences and knowledge concerning theatre and mental health;
  • favour the encounter between culture and mental health, through the diffusion and promotion of “mixed” theatre companies, which already act as “bridges” between production of health and production of culture;
  • carry out prevention work by developing high-quality artistic activities;
  • support the training and artistic activities started in the Departments of Mental Health;
  • improve the exchange of experiences and communication in the field of mental health and promote a positive perception of “madness”;
  • promote effective habilitation/rehabilitation processes able to fight phenomena such as chronification, immobility and regression of mental health patients;
  • start a process aimed at strengthening and networking the positive relations built across the territory, paying special attention to establish relationships between the local working groups that are part of the health and social Plan and the local educational and cultural/training agencies, as well as the cultural and voluntary associations;
  • survey how users, professionals and families perceive the quality of the theatrical activities and facilities involved in the project.