Hi. I’m Sarah Recker.
About three years ago. The summer after my freshman year here. And it was my brother’s wedding day. All morning I felt nauseous, a pit in my stomach, like something terrible was going to happen, but I figured I was just nervous because it was such a happy perfect day. The wedding carried on, and the pressure on my chest only got worse. Before I knew it, I was laying on the floor of the hotel bathroom screaming for my mom in a cold sweat, the room was spinning and I could feel my heart beating faster and faster. I genuinely believed that that was it, that I was going to have a heart attack on my brother’s wedding day. I had a panic attack. And that’s when it all started for me. The scariest thing about panic attacks is the physical feelings that comes from your mentality. I remember thinking, What is wrong with my mind? Does it really have that much power over how I physically feel? That’s when I decided I needed to figure this out. So I studies and began to work on my own personal mental health.
Art. It allows us to live out our truest selves. Therapy, especially with art often seems reserved for those who have experienced trauma and loss. But everyone is capable and often in need of an outlet to be expressive. Artistic expression provides a healthy way, and sometimes the only way of revealing unknown and suppressed emotions in an individual. Artistic expression is healthy and needs to be accessible to all.
Negative emotions are often suppressed, and expressive ways of coping, such as traditional Art Therapy, are usually reserved for extreme cases. However, mental health practices apply to everyone—they apply to me, to you, and to your loved ones. If you’re not an anxious person, you still have feelings and emotions. We all have good days and bad days. And each of us have personalized ways of dealing with stress, anger, sadness, whether they be healthy or unhealthy outlets. And we all could benefit from the cathartic effects of artistic expression.
- Point 1—Rising Action (this) Anxiety and emotions are so often suppressed. From youth to adulthood, we are taught to suppress expression.
- Studies show, Despite its high level of treatability through therapy and/or medication, 2/3 of adults with anxiety do not receive treatment. Surpassing even depression, anxiety is the most common form of mental illness in the United States. It’s estimated that approximately 10 percent of teenagers and 40 percent of adults suffer from an anxiety disorder of some kind.
- Only one in 5 teenagers with anxiety seek any kind of treatment.
- In our youth, creativity was encouraged and available to us.
- Coloring outside the lines was a way of exploring and learning about the world around you. As kids we were free. Mistakes were okay. We were expressive, unafraid, and encouraged to be daring and create without limits.
- Growing up, we started being told to color in the lines, and study about things that “really matter in life.” So we hit the books. Because Expression is inappropriate, reason is valued over feelings, so we resist the tendency to express.
- Why do we suppress how we feel? We are either uncomfortable or we suppress them without knowing. Or we put things on the backburner because in the moment we feel ok about them. Why is this?
- Humans are complex.
- We don’t always handle negativity in healthy ways.
- Point 2—Climax (means that) Art therapy does not seem accessible for all.
- Art therapy seems reserved for the “damaged.” Those who have gone through extreme situations.. like trauma, loss, injury. Or often it seems only for children.
- Art therapy can be a particularly useful treatment tool for children, who frequently have limited language skills. By drawing or using other visual means to express troublesome feelings, younger patients can begin to address these issues, even if they cannot identify or label these emotions with words. Art therapy is also valuable for adolescents and adults who are unable or unwilling to talk about thoughts and feelings. Beyond its use in mental health treatment, art therapy is also used with traditional medicine to treat organic diseases and conditions. The connection between mental and physical health is well documented, and art therapy can promote healing by relieving stress and allowing the patient to develop coping skills.
- Even art itself seems reserved for the skilled.
- Deane Alban said, “Many are afraid that since they aren’t very good at something, there is no point and they won’t get any benefit from doing it. Another myth is that you have to work with an art therapist to get any therapeutic benefit from doing art.“ Therapeutic art can be a personal endeavor.
- Point 3—Creative expression is improves mental health and needs to be accessible to all.
- Kwame Dawes, Ph.D., Distinguished Poet in Residence talks about his own personal reasoning behind his work. He says “Whatever the reason, an inner compulsion exists and I continue to honor this internal imperative. If I didn’t, I would feel really horrible. I would be a broken man. So whether attempting to make art is noble or selfish, the fact remains that I will do it nevertheless… I’m trying to capture in language the things that I see and feel, as a way of recording their beauty and power and terror, so that I can return to those things and relive them.”
- We are all born with an innate desire to express ourselves and art encompasses a wider range of activities than we can even imagine.
- Art encourages creative thinking. Creating art is an effective way to stimulate the brain, distract it when it needs to be distracted, and heal it when it needs healing. Picasso says, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
- Conclusion—I propose the development of a toolkit for adults to be able to use artistic expression as an everyday means of promoting positive mental health.
- I want to gather resources for adults to practice creative expression, regardless of their artistic abilities.
- The toolkit will serve as an entry-point into developing positive mental health practices and habits.
- When we make maintaining our mental health a priority, we can see improvements in our every day lives, and can better identify when we may be in an unhealthy place, or experiencing something that may trigger a panic attack like mine, and possibly prevent them.