Making The Case For Youth Mental Health And Art Education

Research shows what Teaching Artists understand through experience: Art Education is key to improving Youth Mental Health. According to researcher and artist Catherine Heinemeyer, creative subjects in schools promote “…dialogue, self-expression, playfulness, exploration, development of personal initiative, and just plain chatting, between young people and caring adults”, enabling “young people to understand the world around them and thrive despite adversity” (The Conversation).

Issues in Youth Mental Health have risen sharply over the course of the pandemic. A survey of Quebec residents showed the percentage of youth aged 18-24 experiencing moderate to severe depressive symptoms more than tripled in 2020, as compared with a survey conducted five years earlier (Analysis of Depression in Quebec During COVID-19 Crisis).

Professional Development For Teaching Artists In Youth Mental Health

In order to better equip Teaching Artists in meeting student needs, ELAN ArtEd is offering Teaching Artists professional development in Youth Mental Health facilitated by Teaching Artist and social worker Alyssa Kuzmarov. Funded by Community Health And Social Services Network (CHSSN), ELAN ArtEd’s 2021-22 Youth Mental Health Initiative engaged with:

  • 14 Teaching Artists, of which 5 self-identify as youth (under 35 years of age)
  • 60 school and community organizations
  • Over 3400 youth

As Alyssa writes, professional development of this kind:

“… provide[s] a space for Teaching Artists to share their experiences, cultivate new skills and explore challenging issues and behaviors they may encounter in the classrooms. As Teaching Artists, we are often alone, carrying deep emotional experiences the youth share with us or dealing with conflicts or complicated group dynamics. This is a very meaningful part of our work and yet it is vital to have a space to process those experiences, and to explore enhanced ways of responding to youth… These workshops create a community for Teaching Artists so that we can support each other to learn and grow in our work with youth and as artists.”

A Call To Action: Supporting Youth Mental Health Through The Art Education

The potential for Art Education to support Youth Mental Health and the need to support Teaching Artists in this work is more pertinent now than ever before. As Dr. Tiina Kukkonen writes,

“The arts have a history of helping youth and communities heal after crises and disasters and will most certainly have a restorative role to play as we begin to adjust to post-pandemic life… Whether in-person or online, children and youth have benefited not only from the artistic expertise of artists, but also from their ability to create learning environments that are inclusive, collaborative, and most of all, fun” (Supporting Youth Mental Health In And Through The Arts).

ELAN’s Youth Mental Health Initiative is funded by the Community Health And Social Services Network (CHSSN).

students filming during their ArtistsInspire project
James Lyng High School students filming during their ArtistsInspire project with Alyssa Kuzmarov.