When 17-year-old Daniela Marino picks up a paintbrush, it’s soothing and calming.
“Art is seen as an outlet for many others, including myself,” Daniela said. “I'm able to use art to express myself because it's really easy to grab any type of material and show exactly how it is that you're feeling.”
Her latest masterpiece – Garden Mind – has two hands clutched together holding a brain, surrounded by trees and blooming flowers. It’s one of many pieces displayed at an annual children’s art showcase, hosted by Mental Health America of Greater Houston.
The virtual art showcase highlights the importance of protecting children’s mental health, ways to help reduce stigma and gives local students an opportunity to use their feelings as creative fuel. It’s part of an expansion of the organization’s programming, thanks to a $190,000 UnitedHealthcare grant. For May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, this year’s showcase theme is Surviving to Thriving: The World Through My Eyes.
“Art is something that is taught in schools and we work with school districts to change the culture around mental health,” said Dr. Jamie Freeny, the director of the Center for School Behavioral Health with Mental Health America of Greater Houston. “It just made sense to engage students directly in the conversation by inviting them to create art pieces that relate to their vision and their feelings about mental health.”
Mental illness impacts approximately 1 in 6 students. Mental Health America of Greater Houston aims to help close the gap by supporting students through proper treatment, education and a unique approach — tapping into their creativity.
“Art is a universal language and has the ability to connect with students of all ages,” Jamie said. “The annual showcase is an amazing opportunity for students to share their voice and it promotes art as a positive coping skill.”
Daniela encourages other students to explore artwork as a form of expression during Mental Health Awareness Month – and beyond.
“Mental health means checking in on yourself and your body and making sure you're doing OK and that you're healthy,” Daniela said. “It's important to raise awareness around mental health and I will definitely continue to express my feelings through art.”
Click here to view the art submitted at this year’s showcase.