The Resilience Project
The Resilience Project: Breaking Down the Stigma of Mental Health Through The Arts
Studio East is privileged to partner with EvergreenHealth in creating the Resilience Project, an in-school workshop program designed to build awareness about mental health issues faced by young people and break the stigma around discussing them, through the vehicle of creative arts. Education through the prism of the creative process allows students to approach this material in an atmosphere of non-judgmental support and experiential learning.
The American Psychological Association states that, “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” This is the basis of the Resilience Project – that everyone has the capability to learn and develop what it means to be resilient.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Adolescent Health, approximately one out of five adolescents has a diagnosable mental health disorder, and nearly one third show symptoms of depression. In the past year, less than half of the adolescents with psychiatric disorders received any kind of treatment. Many attribute this to the social stigma that surrounds mental health disorders as well as the difficulty in accessing mental health care.
With Studio East’s mission to help create confident, compassionate, responsible young people through training in the performing arts, and EvergreenHealth’s mission to deliver innovative and accessible solutions for changing health needs, this partnership has the potential for a positive impact on thousands of students in the area.
The pilot program of the Resilience Project was held at Juanita High School in May. Program developers Julie Grant, MFA, MAP, MSW and Etalia Thomas, MA, LPCC, R-DMT worked with two classes for 90 minutes over two days. With their expertise in the Creative Arts (Performance and Education), Therapy, Psychology, and Social Work, Julie and Etalia are able to effectively combine art education with mental health education.
The ultimate goal in these first classes was to open up communication and create an environment where students were free to talk about issues such as depression, self-harm and anxiety. Through each workshop, creating a safe environment for open conversation was an essential starting point. “It’s treating the entire room as a community with individuals operating with their own unique needs and resources that they bring to the table,” says Julie Grant.
During the workshops, the students participated in movement exercises, mural work, photography, theater exercises, as well as a lot of conversation along the way. Rather that receiving information in the form of a lecture, students engaged their physical and creative selves as well as their minds, enabling them to absorb the information on an organic level.
Students left the workshops with specific tools and resources, handouts on resilience, information on school counselors and more. “If we can leave kids knowing they are not alone, that they have resources, that there is support, that there are ways to learn to be resilient in life, then I think we have succeeded,” says Julie Grant.
The long-term goal is to implement the Resilience Project in Elementary and Middle Schools as well as High Schools in East King County.