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Study shows benefits of creativity for youth mental health

© iStock - Olivier Le Moal
Kathryn Carley

(Maine News Service) Young people who engage in creative activities report a reduction in feelings of stress or anxiety, according to a new study. The Adobe Foundation and National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, found more than 60 percent of young people surveyed reported an improved sense of confidence through painting, writing or any form of creative expression. 

Fredric Miggins, NAMI senior manager, Field, Allies & Professionals, said improving access to creative activities could help turn the tide on a youth mental health crisis

"Creative expression is something that just about anyone can engage in - in-person or online," he explained. "This makes it one of the most accessible ways for people to invest in supporting their own mental well-being."

Miggins added creative expression is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment, but rather an important tool in managing one's overall well-being, and sense of purpose. The survey found younger people were more likely than the general population to say creative expression strengthened their sense of identity or belonging in a community.

LGBTQ+ respondents were more likely than heterosexual respondents to say that creative activities improved their mental health and boosted their sense of community. Miggins said at a time when so many LGBTQ+ youth feel targeted, online influencers are helping inspire young people to get creative themselves. 

"You know at a time when a lot of the social media landscape can feel unwelcoming or antagonistic to people with queer identities, it's a great reminder that there is beauty and support out there," he explained. 

Transgender kids in particular revealed even greater mental health benefits from creative expression, Higgins said, and added it is important for people struggling with mental illness to realize they are not alone and that creative activities can also be done with a family member or friend.