This week is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s focus is “Express Yourself.”
The Duchess of Cornwall went as far as to say that children and young people should express themselves through music, drama and art to boost their mental health and find things that make them feel good about themselves.
Well in cricket terminology that’s an easy six to the boundary for any performing arts school. But don’t we all express ourselves every day? What’s so special about doing that right now?
I’d say that children and young people have a lot going on – well we all do! But the thing about being young, especially when you enter your teens is that Mum and Dad aren’t what they used to be in your life. A sense of independence becomes important. Your friends give you a place to try out other thoughts, argue, agree with each other and be part of the same gang – the no adults allowed gang. Us parents all went through this so we know how important friends are to self-esteem. I’ll cross off those so-called friends who turned out not to be on your side at all and chipped away at your self-esteem – but it took you time to realise it!
If you only see your friends on a phone or on Zoom how can you interact? From what I’veheard young people should generally take a bow for the way they have been dealing with all this. The vast majority of them seem to have found a way to carry on even though it’s not what they planned. I know one thing; this generation will be very resilient when they are older – they had no choice but to learn that skill early on.
But inside people have anxieties and who can blame them when normal life is put on hold for so long. They must bottle up how they feel. This is where I think the arts are uniquely placed to help. If you store up something inside, then it builds up pressure. If you have a way to release that pressure, then it must help. Performing arts is a ‘together’ activity but there are ways to express yourself on your own. Here are a few; write and perform a monologue, record yourself singing a song, choreograph and record a dance, write a story, a poem, draw or paint how you feel, start learning or practise a musical instrument, make a model theatre, design some costumes, keep a diary, go for a walk and invent a solution for climate change and draw a diagram called problems and solutions.
All these things are doing things. Yes, we love to sit and watch. Netflix has been such a saviour for me but it’s passive. It’s when you VENT out what you feel that you feel better. So, I would change the title from “express yourself” to “get it off your chest” because that is what we need to do. And done creatively your ideas may strike a chord with others.
At our performing arts schools we take the mental health and well being of our students seriously. For over 28 years, Theatretrain, has provided a space where young people can come and learn about theatre skills, themselves, and the world in which they live. Our core skills in acting, singing and dance, are accompanied by other life skills such as confidence, self-esteem, and communication, to name a few. Since restrictions were placed on us last March, Theatretrain has been determined to fulfil its commitment to providing acting, singing and dance lessons on-line to young people everywhere. To take part in any of our classes, click here.