High schoolers and mental health: can art help give them space?

A slightly unconventional artist-in-schools project is revealing the power of uninterrupted, quiet creative time for teens.
Three high school students lying on the floor drawing on large piece of white paper.

It’s safe to say that no one feels especially positive about the way the past few years have played out when it comes to our mental health. Although our day-to-day pandemic experiences may have differed, we also feel a shared sense of suffering due to COVID’s many burdens. That said, there is perhaps one demographic that has experienced a special kind of social pain through the COVID-era.

This is a group who – in “normal world” times – face profound physical and emotional changes and are naturally inclined to feel somewhat upended by those shifts. According to Mission Australia’s most recent youth survey, since COVID, 30% of young people have reported feeling high psychological distress and mental health concerns at some point over that time. This data pairs with widespread anecdotal evidence that the mental health needs of teenagers have been increased by the pandemic, while demand for mental health support across the board is outstripping supply.

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ArtsHub's Arts Feature Writer Jo Pickup is based in Perth. An arts writer and manager, she has worked as a journalist and broadcaster for media such as the ABC, RTRFM and The West Australian newspaper, contributing media content and commentary on art, culture and design. She has also worked for arts organisations such as Fremantle Arts Centre, STRUT dance, and the Aboriginal Arts Centre Hub of WA, as well as being a sessional arts lecturer at The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).