An article I circulated on Twitter on Monday about Children’s art during the pandemic received a lot of interest, underlining the concern that many have regarding the negative mental health impact of the pandemic on children and youth.
The article details the many problems mental health professionals are noticing in children and teens. When a child’s art depicts their isolation and despair, it would be difficult not to be moved. The art produced by kids for the project confirms those difficulties vividly.
Articles like this are necessary to advocate for the resources we need to provide the mental health treatments youth need and will continue to need after the pandemic. At the same time as we can observe the pain in children’s art, there is another aspect of expressing feelings in art that is important – so important that we might well want to encourage every young person to depict creatively how they are feeling about the pandemic.
Here is another article that outlines the benefits of a program in Britain in which creative and artistic activities are prescribed to patients. Both mental and physical health can improve with these prescriptions and the programs have been found to be a cost-effective way of providing adjunctive mental health care. Participating in a creativity-based program can improve self esteem and increase confidence. Also, focussing on producing a piece of art can be meditative, an important mindfulness activity. While the researchers who completed the first study on what is being depicted in children’s art were alarmed by their findings, it is possible that the youth who produced the artwork were assisted by the activity. A great follow-up to this project would be to find out what impact painting the pandemic had for the youth who depicted it creatively.
The authors of the Guelph study noted that they had hoped the art could be displayed in a gallery. This has happened before, with great success. Scotland has a Mental Health Arts Festival. It has been running for 16 years and has been shown to promote improved mental health. The Scottish Festival doesn’t only focus on visual arts but also includes other forms of creative expression, a reminder to everyone that, however modest your creative endeavour, it might well be helping you to emotionally manage this difficult time.
(Note and photo credit: This image is an illumination from a manuscript created in approximately 1353 during the Black Death. It is a depiction of the Citizens of Tournai burying their plague dead. This is a reminder that humans have used art to depict their suffering for centuries.)