How the Arts Help Emotional Expression and Mental Health in Youth
Engaging in the arts can help youth express and navigate their emotions, as well as help with their mental health. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 70 per cent of Canadians “experience symptoms of mental illness” before they turn 18. It is important to address mental health during these critical younger ages. Doing activities that encourage youth to use their imagination, like drawing, painting, writing, and music, can create one way to maintain a healthy outlook during stressful times.
“Art” is a broad topic containing many types. Like many abstract and large topics, it’s often to define art in one statement. The World Health Organization (WHO) defined five categories of art in their 2019 report on art’s positive impacts on heath:
- Performing arts (music, dance, theatre, singing, and film)
- Visual arts, design, and craft (crafts, design, painting, photography, sculpture, and textiles)
- Literature (writing, reading, and attending literary festivals)
- Culture (going to museums, galleries, art exhibitions, concerts, the theatre, etc.)
- Online, digital, and electronic arts (animations, filmmaking, and computer graphics)
Benefits of Making Art
A 2021 report by the English Language Arts Network (ELAN) noted that creative arts reduce stress and boost resistance to negative experiences within youth. While specific art therapy sessions with a professional exist, the benefits of making art apply to other social situations. When participating in the arts with others, it creates a sense of belonging, and connections with those around. Additionally, art helps children develop their own identity and as well as support and gain an “awareness of diverse identities within society.” Making these social connections make children feel more confident and less isolated in their lives, leading to greater health overall.
The Flexibility of Art
Art’s flexibility lends itself well to help people explore their emotions. Many creatives cite life experiences as inspirations for their work, and often art is a reflective process. A simple piece of blank paper can be filled with text, or colour, or pictures — it all depends on what comes to mind. Art allows individuals to create anything they want, and this acts as a pathway to the mind. Emotions flow into works, whether they want to look into their current feelings, ones of the past, or ones they want to feel. Art can be a naturally therapeutic medium for its ability to let people think about which aspects of themselves they want to express.
Arts for All
Though participating in the arts is especially helpful for youth, the benefits help people of all ages. Creating art at a young age could start a life-long hobby that improves life even as someone grows older. Art is one of those things that will naturally evolve the more people get involved and as they change as people. Though someone’s art abilities and creations may vary throughout their life, having a consistent hobby helps to destress in busy times. Having a hobby such as art helps create a health work-life balance later on, and acts as something to keep people happy for the rest of their lives.