Tragedies affect everybody’s lives. No matter where we are, it’s impossible to hear about mass shootings and other acts of hate and not feel some change in the way we see the world and how happy we feel inside.
Repeated exposure to tragic events on the news has been shown to induce mental distress and heighten anxiety. Children are particularly vulnerable.
This begs the question – why are there so few remedies to help alleviate the symptoms of depression we feel from events on the news?
One method has been documented time and time again to help anyone emotionally heal, and that’s art. Art therapy can be self-healing as it allows us to externalize trauma. Then there’s how we at Stars of HOPE use healing art to create human connection and promote healing in others.
If you ever question the power art plays in society, remember that it’s the only space we have to record the history of the human heart.
News transmits information. History documents change. But since the dawn of civilization, art alone has been able to reveal what we’ve been inspired by, what we thought was beautiful, and what has captivated our imaginations.
When tragedy occurs and our hearts have been broken, art itself becomes a way to put ourselves back together.
How did art therapy begin?
Initially, art therapy programs were designed to help World War II veterans overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to American Scientist, “Trauma affects the brain’s speech centers and can limit the effectiveness of traditional talk-based therapies.” Early researchers found that art offered a non-verbal way to express ideas, which likely helped the veterans build new connections and pathways in the brain, thus providing the therapeutic effect.
Today, art therapy is a crucial healing tool for those suffering from depression, isolation, or emotional distress.
It’s especially beneficial for anyone affected by tragedies, from direct survivors to those watching on the news.
How does art therapy work?
The American Art Therapy Association states that “Through integrative methods, art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone.” In doing so, art gives people a way to take their narratives back into their own hands and define the meaning of an event how they see fit.
It’s possible to find therapeutic benefits in any artistic medium. Dancing, music, improv comedy have all offered creative ways to heal from traumatic memories. Even Lego has been found to help rebuild emotional and mental safety in people suffering from anxiety and depression.
Art Therapy… and Healing Art
At Stars of HOPE, we use the techniques of art therapy to create healing art.
Our family of volunteers creates human connection through messages of hope, love, and support, painted onto wooden stars that we give to people who have recently survived traumatic events. This includes those directly affected by mass tragedies, as well as the community at large.
Therapeutic art helps the person who creates the star emotionally heal just as much as the one who receives it.
Sending a message of hope asks you to look inside yourself and find one. This can let you reach hidden strengths or empower beliefs you may not have realized you had.
One of the unique aspects of Stars of HOPE is that anyone who creates a star is able to see where it’s sent. We’ve found that letting people see how much their messages mean to other people is one of the best ways to help the healing process.