Art therapy found to help with anxiety, depression
- NC Raine | July 15, 2019
Kirsty Sutherland began creating art at a young age simply a way to escape. Years later, when talking to a therapist about her anxiety and depression, Sutherland learned she had been looking to art as a means of self-therapy.
“I used art from as early as 11 or 12 years old to express myself when things were too hard to talk about,” said Sutherland. “It was a natural thing. I’ve been using art as therapy my entire life.”
Now, Sutherland, a 23-year old with roots in Peepeekisis Cree Nation and Beardy's and Okemasis' Cree Nation, is sharing her love of art therapy with students in Saskatoon in hopes that others may receive the same benefits that art has brought to her.
“Lately, there’s so many people who are struggling in their mental health and choosing to commit suicide. I know that if more people knew how to get out or express their feelings, particularity in the Native community, it would benefit a lot of people in their mental health,” said Sutherland.
Art therapy uses creative techniques, such a drawing, painting, sculpting, or other artistic mediums, to help people express themselves, as well as discover some emotional and psychological matters through art. It is used with people of any age, often to explore emotions, improve self-esteem, manage addiction, or improve symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Sutherland will be sharing what she has leared from art therapy with students at Oskayak High School in Saskatoon. She will be talking to students about her own experience with art therapy, and encouraging students to use art as an outlet for their emotions.
“You don’t need the best art skills to benefit from art therapy. You just need to want to help yourself,” she said.
Like all therapy, art therapy does not purport to be an all-in-all cure for resolving mental health needs. It requires patience and persistence, but studies have shown that art therapy has been used quite successfully in a number of areas, including helping children communicate, improve concentration and moods for people of all ages, and decrease disruptive behaviours.
“For me, it can really calm your nerves when you have an anxiety attack. It helps you focus on one thing so you’re able to relieve your stress,” said Sutherland.
She said she plans on sharing with students some of her own insights she’s gathered via using art therapy to work through her own personal struggles. She said that painting, or even wearing certain colours, can help improve one’s mental state.
“A healer I spoke with on my reserve said that certain colours, such as maroon or dark green, can help with anxiety and depression,” said Sutherland.
It’s the non-verbal expressions that make art-therapy unique. While talk-therapy offers an enables verbal communication, art-therapy is capable of looking at both verbal and non-verbal spectrums of one’s life.
“I’ve been using art as therapy for a long time,” said Sutherland. “It really does work for me.”
Check out Sutherland’s art at ksutherlandarts on Facebook.