A Novel Landscape for Understanding Physical and Mental Health: Body Mapping Research with Youth Experiencing Psychosis


  • Katherine M. Boydell Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales
  • Jeffrey Ball Community Adolescent Outreach Service, Canterbury Hospital
  • Jackie Curtis The Bondi Centre
  • Adèle de Jager Black Dog Institute
  • Megan Kalucy The Bondi Centre
  • Julia Lappin School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales
  • Simon Rosenbaum School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales
  • Anna Tewson Black Dog Institute
  • Priya Vaughan Research School of Humanities & the Arts Australian National University
  • Philip B. Ward School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales
  • Andrew Watkins The Bondi Centre, Southeastern Sydney Local Health District




arts-based research, qualitative research, body mapping, early psychosis, physical health


Estimates indicate the lifespan of individuals with psychotic illness is reduced by approximately 15-20 years. Consequently there is a need to address the physical health of those who live with a mental illness, like psychosis. The Bondi Centre provides an integrated model of care to young people with a first episode of psychosis. The Keeping the Body In Mind program focuses on prevention and early intervention of physical health issues and is offered alongside treatment for mental health and social issues as part of routine care. We used body mapping, an arts-based research method, to explore the complexity of this physical health intervention. Our aim was to develop an in-depth understanding of experiences of young clients of the early intervention centre, with a particular focus on the embodied relationship between physical and mental health. Six young people engaged in creating life-sized body maps depicting their experience of the physical intervention program over four 3-hour sessions, followed by an in-depth interview. Analysis of our body maps drew on thematic analysis and narrative inquiry. The narrative trope was one of recovery, highlighting the importance of the link between body and mind, individual and community, and the balance between light and darkness. There was an emphasis on developing feelings of connectedness (to self and others), hope and optimism for the future, a sense of having an identity, and a sense of meaning and empowerment. Recovery was conceptualised as an ongoing process rather than an end product or fixed state. Involvement in the body mapping process was consistently identified as therapeutic, offering an opportunity for reflection on the journey to recovery with a focus on past, present and imagined storylines of the future. 

Author Biographies

Katherine M. Boydell, Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales

Katherine M. Boydell is Professor of Mental Health at the Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales. She is a qualitative methodologist working in the child and youth mental health field. Her research program focuses on advancing the science of knowledge translation using innovative arts-based strategies. 

Jeffrey Ball, Community Adolescent Outreach Service, Canterbury Hospital

Jeffrey Ball is Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, Community Adolescent Outreach Service, Sydney Local Health District. He is Conjoint Lecturer, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales and Clinical Researcher at the Black Dog Institute with a background in qualitative mental health research.

Jackie Curtis, The Bondi Centre

Jackie Curtis is a Psychiatrist at the Bondi Clinic. Her clinical research focuses on cardiovascular morbidity in youth with first episode psychosis, including prevention and intervention of obesity and weight gain.

Adèle de Jager, Black Dog Institute

Adele de Jager is a Clinical Psychologist and Research Officer whose main interests focus on qualitative inquiry in the mental health field.

Megan Kalucy, The Bondi Centre

Megan Kalucy is a psychiatrist with expertise in working with young people experiencing their first episode of psychosis and in sleep disorders in the context of mental illness. She is also an experienced textile craftsperson with a strong interest in the benefits to health and wellbeing from engaging in artistic practices.

Julia Lappin, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales

Julia Lappin is a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Bondi Junction Early Psychosis Program, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, and a Senior Lecturer at University of New South Wales in the School of Psychiatry. Her research interests include improving outcomes in severe mental illness.

Simon Rosenbaum, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales

Simon Rosenbaum is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney and the Black Dog Institute. Simon is an exercise physiologist with expertise in the design, delivery and evaluation of physical activity programs for people living with mental illness.

Anna Tewson, Black Dog Institute

Anna Tewson studied creative writing in her Bachelor of Arts degree, before moving into a research assistant position at the Black Dog Institute utilising arts-based research techniques to explore mental health. Anna recently completed a course in narrative therapy, and is now completing her Master of Social Work.

Priya Vaughan, Research School of Humanities & the Arts Australian National University

Priya Vaughan is a research assistant at Black Dog Institute collaborating with Katherine Boydell and her team to undertake arts-based research in the mental health space. She is currently completing her PhD in social anthropology at ANU.

Philip B. Ward, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales

Philip Ward is a clinical neuroscientist who has developed a translational research and evaluation program focussed on improving physical and mental health outcomes in people with mental illness. He has overseen the development and implementation framework for the Keeping the Body in Mind Program at the Bondi Centre.

Andrew Watkins, The Bondi Centre, Southeastern Sydney Local Health District

Andrew Watkins is the co-developer and lead of Keeping the Body in Mind (KBIM) across South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD). He has a longstanding interest in the physical health of people with severe mental illness.


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How to Cite

Boydell, K. M., Ball, J., Curtis, J., de Jager, A., Kalucy, M., Lappin, J., … Watkins, A. (2018). A Novel Landscape for Understanding Physical and Mental Health: Body Mapping Research with Youth Experiencing Psychosis. Art/Research/International:/A/Transdisciplinary/Journal, 3(2), 236–261. https://doi.org/10.18432/ari29337