How Making Art Helps Teens Better Understand Their Mental Health
Tori Wardrip, an art teacher at Lewis and Clark Middle School in Billings, Montana, wanted to explore the benefits of art more deeply while addressing some of the mental health issues she saw students experiencing.
Last year, Wardrip launched Creative Courage, a school-based support group for students struggling with mental health concerns. Similar to individual counseling, support groups often encourage individuals to speak about their struggles. But talking about mental health can make people feel vulnerable, especially adolescents. This is why Creative Courage uses nonverbal tools, like mindfulness, journaling and art activities, to help kids identify and express their emotions.
While the creative process in Wardrip’s group is an open canvas, each self-expression exercise teaches the students an emotional skill, like self-awareness, social skills and self-acceptance.
Many of the kids in Wardrip’s 10-week group struggle with depression, anxiety and gender dysphoria. Others feel lonely and out of place. All of these students are searching for someone who can understand their suffering.
Wardrip finds that by the end of the 10-week course, students begin to heal. Her data from last year’s group suggest participants’ symptoms of anxiety and depression lessened by 40 percent. To measure this change, each group member completed an anxiety and depression questionnaire: one before the group began, and another after completing the course.