Paint brush painting
Art can help deal with depression, anxiety, and other emotional ailments. Pexels/Pixabay

Art and mental health: two sides of the same coin. The need to create comes as easy to humans as it is to breathe or eat. We do it simply because we have to do it. Cave paintings made by our earliest ancestors prove the importance of storytelling and at times the bragging rights that come with it. What better way to teach future generations about the time you fought off 4 saber-tooth tigers with only your spear and courage than to immortalize it with some berries, a rock, and creativity?

Art has changed in many ways since its earliest iterations, but the need to make art has never subsided.

Mental Health and Covid

With the rise of the modern world came many new modern problems. One of the most misunderstood has been mental health. With a little over 6 decades of formal research, mental health is the newest addition to our understanding of health.

With the rise of Covid-19, there has been an increase of 25% in cases of depression and anxiety, according to the World Health Organization. With this increase in mental health cases, one would assume that government agencies would be sprinting to offer better care to their citizens. However, on average only 2% of a country's resources are allocated to mental health.

With the isolation brought up by quarantine, much self-reflection was placed in motion as well. And in a world where mental health is scarce and often times weaponized by organizations for their own profit, how do we deal with this crisis?

Expressivity: Our best ally

When we talk about art we tend to think of the top artists on the charts or the latest movies in theaters. But by doing so we rob art of its main objective, to exist. What this means is that the more we try to explain what art is, the less we understand it. Art is a medium, not a product.

Thanks to art we are able to convert our deepest selves into pieces of understanding. You may now be thinking, 'Art just isn't for me' or 'I have no creativity.' I believe this to be the result of the utilization of art as a symbol of wealth and power. But art is never meant to be good or bad, because in its core it is nothing more than desire. Desire to be heard, understood, and accepted.

And all of these desires come from the need of the mind to feel at ease. You may want to create pieces that are only for you or you might want to share your own view of the world. Whatever the case, art is a way to help you express feelings that may be difficult to navigate. The best art pieces are those that are fueled by emotions. Mainly emotions that are labeled as "bad," which they are none of. Feelings and emotions do not show character, they help us understand ourselves and how we interact with the world around us.

Joy does not inspire many pieces, but many pieces tend to inspire joy.

Art and Latinx/Hispanic communities

Mexican skull
Mexican 'calaverita,' a common art form depicting life and death. coombesy/Pixabay

Having grown up in a Hispanic family, I had a very warped view of what art meant. Too many times was I told that poets were "gay" and art was only for girls. Why is this such a common theme in Latinx families? I believe this to be the result of toxic machismo that is found in many Latinos.

What does this machismo mean for Latinxs? It means that as a male in society, you are not allowed to express your innermost emotions because your role is only as a breadwinner. Productivity became very early on a synonym for success, especially among males. And it is difficult to make a living out of art.

This is the main reason many males in brown and black communities tend to deviate from it. But, as previously stated, art is at its core a medium for emotional growth. Stunted by a lack of self-exploration through artistic means, the Latinx community has become vulnerable to mental health problems.

Finding your medium

So you want to start your artistic journey but you don't yet know what medium you prefer. A basic rule of thumb is to start with the mediums you feel most attracted to. But keep in mind, you might love to listen to music, but creating it might become a drag. If at any point of the journey, your pieces begin to feel like an unwanted task, reevaluating your medium might be the best next step to take.

Once you find a medium that works for you, you will feel it. After all, we are emotional creatures before we are logical. Trusting your gut is encouraged in the arena of artistry. Maybe you realize that you love dance, or that sculpting is the art form that comforts your soul. Whatever it might be, if you feel there is progress happening trust your gut.

If you want to share your art

There are many reasons why a person might feel they need to share their art. It might be that having eyes on your piece is part of your process to heal, you are looking to make a name for yourself with your creations, or you might just want to share it to see what happens. Whatever the case might be, sharing art is a big part of the process.

If you decide to share your pieces for others to look at, you might end up finding a community for yourself. Reddit has been one of the most popular social media sites in the last years, mainly thanks to its huge amount of subreddits that cover everything from politics to memes. If you are looking to share your pieces a great place to start is on a social site.

If you don't want to share your art

Good news, there is absolutely no need to share your creations if you do not feel like doing so. 'If it's not shown to anyone, then what is the point of making it?' some people might be asking. Well, because it is about the process that creation entails.

One of the best examples of this is writing an angry email and waiting a few days before sending it. Most of the time you will not send the email, or end up deleting it completely. But if it was erased, does it mean that it was in vain? Of course not. Because the feelings were expressed and not kept locked up in our minds.

Dumping all of the feelings and ideas in your mind is a great exercise to give a chance for growth. One thing to keep in mind is that in order for any of this to work, you must see art as a medium to work through emotions, not a product of them.

So get out there and express yourself, even if it is only for you. Don't be afraid to be yourself.

As always, talking with a professional if you are dealing with mental health problems is the best approach.

Be safe and creative.

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