• Sarah Agergaard Christensen
  • Ingrid Thilde Skarø
  • Marie Cathrine Andersen
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
The well-being of young adults is a contentious topic in both public discourse and research. This is not unjustified, as statistics indicate a growing prevalence of mental health issues among young adults, with 75% of the cases manifesting before the age of 24. Consequently, it is crucial to investigate the increasing levels of distress among young adults, in order to implement targeted interventions. In this regard, ‘Ler Former Mennesker’ is a two-year pilot project initiated by FOKUS Folkeoplysning to promote mental well-being among vulnerable young adults through group based creative, ceramic activities. FOKUS attributes the distress among young adults to societal trends emphasizing meritocracy. Thus, they aim to create a space devoid of such performance-related pressures. The present master thesis is a collaborative endeavor with FOKUS to investigate the progression of the art-making project and its potential impact on the participants’ mental well-being, employing qualitative research methods. To examine this objective, the following research question was formulated:

"How can we understand the participants' experiences of the 'Ler Former Mennesker' project, and their perceptions of how the project impacts their mental well-being?"

By employing Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis as the methodological framework and drawing on hermeneutic and phenomenological perspectives, the study explored the research question through semi-structured life-world interviews and participant observation. The project was followed through participant observation, informing the formulation of the interview questions that were conducted both prior to and after participation in the project. Our inductive, idiographic approach aimed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the participants’ mental health before and after the project, and assess the impact of the intervention. This yielded a substantial amount of data, which was analyzed following the guidelines of IPA. By employing a moderate eclectic theoretical approach, nuances from individual factors to societal influences were illuminated. Through an extensive analytical process, various themes emerged from the data, including potential causes of distress, potential causes of improvement in mental health, as well as themes pertaining to the environment in which the creative activities took place. Additionally, themes related to the process of working with clay were identified.

The data revealed that participants felt pressure stemming from performance expectations, feelings of inadequacy, time constraints, and temporary life circumstances. The participants’ experiences of not meeting contemporary normative demands led to symptoms of depression, anxiety, alienation, a growing sense of meaninglessness, and social withdrawal, which the interviewees experienced to varying degrees.

During the course of the project, several processes unfolded that promoted well-being. Engagement with the activities led to a range of positive experiences, including flow, sensory immersion, passion, mindfulness, distraction, and resonance, leading to feelings of calmness, relaxation, joy, mastery, and social interaction. This process, combined with the atmosphere and the physical surroundings created an experience of ‘Ler Former Mennesker’ as a safe space. Thus, the project can be seen as an intentionally decelerating sphere that fosters resonant experiences and offers a break from the societal performance expectations. All interviewees experienced improved well-being during the course of the project, emphasizing that filling their daily lives with joyful and relaxing activities had a positive impact on their overall mental health. The participants expressed a desire to continue the course, highlighting the importance of such opportunities being accessible, as the project aided their movement towards reintegration into the world. While the participants acknowledged the positive impact of their participation in Ler Former Mennesker, they recognized that it was just one part of their broader well-being journey. Thus, the intervention cannot be seen as a standalone solution for combating distress.

Based on the discussion of our research methodology and empirical findings, we argue that there is a strong link between the research purpose, scientific theory, and methods employed. Additionally, we address concerns regarding the present study’s validity, reliability, and generalizability, and present a framework for the reader to assess the implications, quality and exemplary nature of the scientific research exploration of what we consider to be a promising field.
LanguageMultiple languages
Publication date1 Jun 2023
Number of pages129
External collaboratorFOKUS Folkeoplysning
Fagansvarlig, kreativitet Ane Brix Hoffmann ane@fokus-folkeoplysning.dk
ID: 532430435