Making the Case
YOU ARE A PART OF THE SOLUTION for children in need. You can be an advocate and help make the case to others, helping them understand why it’s important that the mental health of children becomes a priority and why a creative approach is called upon. Join with us to become an agent for change for under-served children in your community.
Children’s Mental Health
Mental health is how we think, feel, and act as we face life’s situations. It is how we look at ourselves, our lives, and the people in our lives. It affects how we evaluate options and make choices.
When an exceptionally stressful experience happens early in life, it can lead to mental distress and have long-term consequences for learning and behavior, as well as physical and mental health. Untreated, it can can permanently alter a child’s developing brain as well as their capacity to learn and adapt to stressful situations, interfering with the way they think, feel, and act. Many factors can affect mental health including:
- Chronic stress related to chronic poverty, discrimination, neglect, or other serious hardships
- Exposure to violence such as witnessing or being the victim of bullying, crime, sexual abuse or domestic violence
- The loss of important people through death, divorce, or broken relationships
- Disasters, diseases, injuries and other physical problems
For more information on factors that can affect children’s mental health, visit Resources>>
Children facing stressors such as these are more likely to have a combination of issues including: poor physical health, learning difficulties, family discord, instability, even more stressful life events, and/or more punishment by parents. Psychological trauma can also lead children to long-term emotional, social, and behavioral problems. They may falter in school, develop low self-esteem, or erupt with aggression or violence.
These behaviors are not typically recognized as connected to earlier, traumatic life events, causing reaction to the symptoms rather than the cause. And over time, child and adolescent mental health disorders can become more complex and resistant to treatment. As issues go undetected and untreated, children can face a lifetime of underachievement, family conflicts, substance abuse, violence, or suicide.
The societal cost is enormous and makes early and effective intervention extremely important. The good news is that the earlier in a child’s life preventive work begins, the more likely it is to be effective.
Healthy Expression Leads to Resiliency
Mentally healthy individuals express their emotions in ways that don’t hurt themselves or others. They adapt when faced with unexpected situations and continue forward, despite challenges. Resiliency skills help people handle stress, overcome disadvantage, and be open to new opportunities. In fact, these skills are key in protecting and promoting good mental health.
It is often said that children are resilient. In fact, in 80% of the cases, that can be true, even after a traumatic experience – they will be able to work through it, resolve it in their minds, adapt, and continue on. But 20% will become emotionally frozen in time, re-living the trauma over and over again in their minds, unable to let go. These thoughts become intrusive, invading play time, their dreams and times when they are supposed to be learning.
If left on their own with no way to channel their frustration, anger, or sadness, their actions and behaviors demonstrate their extreme discomfort – and the slightest thing can trigger them.
By providing a positive way for children to express their emotional turmoil, they can become resilient. Interventions that promote resiliency make a lot of sense. By offering positive outlets that allow them to externalize the burden they carry inside, they can come to terms with overwhelming and confusing emotions and difficult circumstances. Age-appropriate coping skills promote flexible thinking, helping them deal with future adversity and inoculate them against depression and other mental health issues.
Blending Therapeutic Approaches
Art with Heart blends several different therapies in order to most effectively approach the problem holistically. We bring together the following approaches:
- Art Therapy: using creative nonverbal ways to reduce anxiety, organize complex emotions, and articulate repressed feelings
- Narrative Therapy: asking key questions that help separate the problem from the person, helping children retell events, creating a narrative of hope
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: explores the link between thoughts/feelings and how that influences our behavior and the decisions we make
- Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): promotes the development of fundamental skills necessary for life effectiveness and connectivity
For more information, visit Resources >>
Because children don’t always have the words to express their emotions, we have found that the best way to help them find the words can be found in the trappings of childhood – pencils, crayons, paper, paint, clay. Creative, guided self-expression can spur personal insight as well as self-motivated behavioral changes – helping children gain skills necessary for coping with stress and other challenges.
Activities and prompts based in creative therapies also engage the connection between the head and the heart, giving children an easier way to access and explore pent-up emotions. As chilldren utilize our therapeutic books, they are able to express both their sorrow and their strength, gaining self-confidence and emotional clarity.