Fall semester mental health art contest to illustrate awareness

By C. Aileen Blaine

Those looking for a way to express themselves creatively while also spreading mental health awareness can look out for the Fall 2022 Mental Health Awareness Art Contest. 

Anne Lally, assistant director of Student Counseling Services, said though this is only the second year for the contest, she wanted to present this opportunity to students even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was hoping to bring awareness and advocacy to mental health, but I also wanted our students here on campus — all of our students — to feel like they have a part of and that this is their counseling center,” Lally said. 

Research supports a positive correlation between using art to express oneself and the effects on mental health. A study by Gemma Stacey and Theodore Stickley from the University of Nottingham found that art is often used to process and communicate complex ideas through self-expression. This in turn can help individuals to “explore emotions they might not otherwise be able to with a verbal interaction” while also contributing to a greater sense of belonging and community.

“I want students to feel comfortable coming here … so they feel empowered to come here, to maybe seek services, but also so they can come visit us and get different information that they might need,” Lally said. 

Any student is welcome to participate, regardless of their major. If they’re nervous about making a submission, Lally encourages them to take the leap even if they don’t fancy themselves an artist. 

“You don’t have to be an artist. You just have to be someone with passion,” she said. 

Last semester’s winner, graduate student Justina Gazso, said creativity’s positive impact is felt by more than just the artist.

“Not only does it encourage students to consider their own mental health and growth, but it can also inspire an understanding of their own mental processes,” she said. “This also gives students a creative outlet to not only share their own emotions, but to connect with other students on a deeper level.”

The fall 2021 contest saw submissions from four participants. Lally hopes there will be even more this year, as she views this contest as just one way for students to get more involved in the campus community while also destigmatizing mental health issues.

Gazso submitted a digital art piece depicting various plants growing from heads of varying colors. She wanted the different facial expressions and colors to represent each individual’s struggles and life journeys. 

“It was so rewarding to create art for mental health, as it’s something I’m passionate about. I know how much mental health can impact students who go to YSU and other colleges,” Gazso said. 

Submissions should include the following:

  • A theme of reducing mental health stigmas and seeking treatment
  • Representation of diversity in the campus community
  • Representation of positivity and inclusivity
  • A creative, consistent message that will be constant over time

Artworks can come in any format, be it painted, drawn or digitally printed. A panel of judges from various departments, such as graphic arts and the YSU National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter, will judge the works. 

Participants will have approximately 10 weeks from the start of the contest during the fall 2022 semester to create and submit their works. Once the winner is decided, a reception ceremony will take place to commemorate the student’s achievement. The winning work will be on display in the Student Counseling Services office, and the winner will have the opportunity to be featured in the divisional newsletter. 

For those interested in learning more about the contest, or to submit a piece, contact Anne Lally at [email protected] or 330-941-3737.