STRONGER TOGETHER: Beyond the Canvas – The Therapeutic Power of Creativity

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Last updated: 24/06/2024

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the transformative power of creativity in enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents, advocating for its integration into education and community to foster engagement, emotional resilience, and a broader, empathetic worldview.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Social media, academic demands, and societal expectations are just some of the pressures that weigh heavily on young minds today. These relentless stressors can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and disconnection, particularly among teenagers. Creativity, however, offers a path to navigating these challenges. Art, music, and language provide more than just an outlet; they create a sanctuary for self-expression, personal growth, and social engagement, especially for those who may have disengaged from traditional avenues of connection.

Creativity is a powerful tool for wellbeing. Recognising its therapeutic value, can enable educational institutions to help students rekindle a passion for learning by integrating creative projects into their curriculum. Encouraging students to explore their creative interests—whether in art, music, language, or any form of self-expression—fosters a sense of autonomy and responsibility. This not only boosts engagement but also promotes a sense of independence and accomplishment.

For young people grappling with the complexities of adolescence, creativity can be a source of comfort and a means of processing emotions. For teens who have disengaged due to academic pressures or personal challenges, creative activities offer a non-threatening avenue for re-entry into the learning environment. The act of creating can be a powerful motivator, providing an outlet for expression that words alone may fail to capture, and instilling a sense of purpose.

Beyond the canvas, creativity can foster community and collaboration. When young people participate in group art projects, music ensembles, or language clubs, they form bonds over shared interests. These creative communities provide a supportive environment where they can experiment, fail, and succeed together. The act of creating something collectively reinforces the idea that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves, which is particularly beneficial for those feeling isolated.

Engaging with different forms of art and music also introduces teens to diverse cultures and viewpoints. This exploration fosters empathy and broadens their understanding of the world. Participating in cultural events or workshops can ignite a passion for learning and discovery, encouraging teens to step out of their comfort zones. This brave leap into new experiences often leads to profound personal growth and a more inclusive worldview.

Art, whatever the medium, is more than just a pastime; it can be a lifeline for anyone, but especially young minds navigating the complexities of adolescence. Encouraging cultural exploration sparks a journey of self-discovery and empathy, broadening horizons and deepening their understanding of themselves, as well as the world around them. Fostering creative expression can empower young people to find their voice, instead of simply relying on following the opinions and views of others. Supporting community creations allows them to contribute to a collective narrative, reinforcing their sense of purpose, belonging and agency, enabling them to find and recognise their personal value and, maybe even, to tap into and realise their potential.

Ultimately, creativity is not solely about the art produced; it’s about being what you will learn along the way. It’s about being flexible, adaptable, and willing to let go when things don’t go the way you expect. It is about committing to something upfront not knowing where you will end up. It is about embracing whatever comes next with an open mind and willing heart.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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