May launches Mental Health Awareness Month, and today, May 5 recognizes National Children’s Mental Health Awareness (CMHAD) sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) is one of the organizations supporting tonight’s national event in Washington, DC.
In honor of spreading awareness about this day, this week I put up a display of artwork from some of the teens I’ve had in my art therapy groups this year. Preparing this display and reflecting on this year’s CMHAD theme of “Finding Help, Finding Hope” inspired me to think about it’s meaning and connection to the work that happens in art therapy. So much about the act of making art is about hope. Despite the challenges and experiences the clients I work with are facing, the creative expression that takes place when they are in art therapy provides a life affirming moment in the here and now to share ones self, emotions, and experiences. Their art helps to make sense of, create meaning, or to re-frame what is often so very hard to do with just words alone. For many of the youth I work with, the art they create often helps them discover or imagine a new beginning, a fresh start, a sense of comfort or safety that they long for. Art making in art therapy offers a place of acceptance, refuge, and support. And as art therapist Bruce Moon reminds us in his book Art-Based Group Therapy: “making art in the presence of others is an expression of hope”. It is a privilege to be able to witness the youth I work with find help and hope through the power of art therapy.
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of art therapy in children’s mental health, check out this post The Important Role of Art Therapy in Supporting Children’s Mental Health that I did for the American Art Therapy Association last year.
SAMHSA also has free publications you can order and electronic downloads on a variety of mental health, recovery, and trauma related topics for all ages available here.