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A researcher and academic at the Black Dog Institute says that working on a recently concluded ABC series, focused on creativity and mental health, has offered a unique opportunity to observe the effects of a research project as it happens.

The series, Space 22 asked seven people to participate in a series of art based activities as part of a research project that evaluates the effect of such activities on a participant’s mental health and wellbeing, which took place across six episodes, concluding last night (21 June).

Professor Katherine Boydell of the Black Dog Institute led the study, which used the Short Mood Scale prior to and after each televised art workshop to measure outcomes in “overall mental health and wellbeing, mood, empathy, and social inclusion.”

She said that the 12 days of filming added something new to the research process, with the TV production allowing an unforeseen level of insight into how participants immediately responded to the art activities performed on the show.

“To my knowledge this is the first time a study of this kind has been conducted during the filming of a TV series,” Professor Boydell says.

“That in itself was thrilling to be part of, but what was also very interesting was to actually view the transition as it was happening. That’s something researchers don’t often have.”

Most importantly, the research, which aimed to verify the benefits of art activities on the participants, showed positive outcomes in most participants.

“We hypothesised that immediate measures of mood (calmness, alertness and contentment) would increase after taking part in each art workshop; and that mood would improve over the course of the art programs,” Professor Boydell explains.

She noted that one particular participant, Ray, showed strong progress across the 12 days of activity.

“But the findings were wonderful. For example, Ray moved tremendously in terms of his overall mental health and wellbeing. He entered the experiment with a ranking of depression, which moved to an average level of wellbeing at midway point and to a high level of wellbeing at the end of the program.”

A BBC/ABC co-production hosted by Natalie Bassingthwaite, all six episodes of Space 22 are available to stream on ABC iView.