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The Proulx Global Education and Community Foundation

The Power of Art Therapy

Youth and Community Mental Wellness

Is my child sad or depressed? What’s the difference?

Look for these 5 signs.

1. Has your child stopped playing and making art?
2. Does your child complain of physical pains?
3. Is your child showing signs of aggression or isolation?
4. Has your child or teen stopped sleeping or eating normally?
5. Does your teen harm themselves with punishing thoughts or self-cutting behaviours?

Life for some children can be challenging and while it is normal to feel sad from time to time, depression in children is tougher to decipher. Temporary blues are normal, but depression is an abnormal state that requires attention. How can you tell if your child is at risk for depression?

1. Has your child stopped playing and making art? Creative play, art-making and imaginative play are all natural activities for children. It’s a critical outlet for processing feelings and making sense of their world. Children who lose interest in playing for two weeks or more, in different settings, may be at risk for depression.

2. Does your child complain of physical pains? Frequent stomach pains, headaches or other physical complaints may indicate your child or teen is not just sad.

3. Is your child showing signs of aggression or isolation? Some children act out or show hostile behaviour when they are depressed. They may not be able to concentrate at school. It may be difficult for them to express their sadness or grief in healthy ways, and if it persists over time, it can impact their daily functioning. Some children internalize their feelings and shut down or isolate. They may stop spending time with friends, stop talking, and mainly keep their worries and fears to themselves.

4. Has your child or teen stopped sleeping or eating normally? Changes in weight, sleep disturbance, and interest in food may indicate risk of depression.

5. Does your teen harm themselves with punishing thoughts or self-cutting behaviours? Have they expressed any suicidal fantasies? Feelings of worthlessness, critical thoughts and wishes to end their life are worrisome indicators. Talk to them directly about your concerns. Research shows that talking about suicidal thoughts openly with another person actually reduces the risk of suicide. Ask them to draw or write a story about their feelings. Respond to their work with interest and curiosity. Do not hesitate to ask questions and listen with openness to their words. Pay attention to their verbal and non-verbal cues. Seek support from your network of relatives and friends. Consult a doctor.

Kids and youth who witness or experience domestic violence, substance abuse, poverty, the death of a loved one, natural disasters, violence or genetic predisposition may be more at risk for depression, though any child can experience it. As the leading cause of disability in the world, we owe it to our kids to help prevent depression and seek treatment early.

Remember that the symptoms of depression in children vary.  What else can you can do to help?

  • Stay calm when your child becomes sad, anxious or withdrawn about a situation or event.
  • Spend time with your child playing and making art ask them to choose the art activity they want to do. Then follow their lead try to understand the messages they are conveying in their art and behaviour
  • Don’t punish mistakes or lack of progress.
  • Try to maintain a regular eating and sleeping routine.
  • Increase your attention and support during stressful periods.
  • Seek professional advice. If you would like a referral to an art therapist in your area, please contact us and let us know where you’re located. We also provide online therapy sessions with registered art therapists for a fee. Ask us for more details.

Nunavut – A Remote Canadian Community in Crisis

Pangnirtung is a remote Nunavut community on Baffin Island. It is home to Zoee Maxwell, a Proulx Foundation CiiAT trained art therapist and teacher. Despite the majestic beauty of the land, the community is faced with a crisis of youth suicide.

The Crisis Today – Youth Suicide

In February and March 2018, 12 young people, most of whom are friends, family and children of those in the community attempted suicide. Some of these youth were successful and the community is grieving their loss.

Healing through Art and tradition

Every day, Zoee Maxwell literally draws on what she does best: helping youth express their grief, anger, and pain through art. They work indoors and out in nature, painting, and drawing, building sculptures, and working with culturally-traditional crafts like carving. Sometimes they drum and sing.

Zoee explains:  “Making art with me by their side helps Pang’s children and teens deal with the horror of the suicides around them, of their friends and loved ones. They can put their anger and confusion onto the paper, or into the drums. I am their witness, and I am part of their community. I can understand them.”

The Need 

There are only a handful of trained mental health providers in this region.  Zoee is the only art therapist in this community. Zoee, the children, and the community need more help. Teachers, elders, family members, and other community leaders can learn how to provide the support that is needed using proven creative and arts-based tools. The community can build its own capacity and learn proven ways to use its traditional heritage and cultural practices to heal itself and begin the long road back from this crisis of grief.

Our belief at the Proulx Foundation is that the inclusion of arts and culture in therapeutic practices can prevent suicide and reduce some of the damage from Canada’s history of suppressing traditional arts, ceremonies, dances, and rituals.

With your help or partnership, the Proulx foundation stands ready to support vulnerable youth in Nunavut and other parts of Canada by teaching, and building capacity for community members by teaching and supporting art therapy and mental health services.

Frontline workers learn how attachment trauma in infancy impacts adolescents.

With art therapy this young man is able to articulate his emotions.

Take action to support Zoee, the youth and families of this community.

We work in partnership and consultation, with the local community, elders, and spiritual leaders.

Partner with us to give young people and their communities the tools they need to make lasting, substantial change, build resilience and meaningful connection, and heal from the trauma of attachment disruptions.

In Nunavut as a whole, there’s a lot of communities that are crying out for help, especially mental health counselling says Nunavut Health and Suicide Prevention Minister Pat Angnakak.

How can I get involved?

Partner

Your organization can join forces with us to improve opportunity in the Pangnirtung community.  Contact us to discover all the ways you can support our initiatives.  We are always in need of volunteers, art supplies, and services in-kind.

Speak up

Get in touch with us and your name will be entered on our petition to urge the Government of Nunavut to fund youth-centered, innovative mental health and wellness programs.

Donate

You can help transform this community! Your donation will help support a program in Nunavut communities to use evidence-based mental health and arts-based techniques to heal from historical trauma and the challenges they face today.

“Your donation of $ 100 or more can support a day of training for one elder or community member to learn the techniques and skills needed to support youth”

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Let’s work together