Winner announced for Mental Health Awareness Art Contest

By Molly Burke

Student Counseling Services have announced a winner for its second annual Mental Health Awareness Art Contest. After reviewing submissions from Sept. 6 to Oct. 7, Amber Rothwell, a graduate student studying clinical mental health counseling was chosen as the winner. 

The contest was open to all students and they could choose any medium of art. Rothwell said she wanted to participate in the contest because of her interest in art and personal struggles with mental health.

“I chose to make it a goal to submit something for the contest as a gauge for my own life — my life at home having five children, my life as a graduate assistant and a graduate student,” Rothwell said. “If I couldn’t find time to create something, that was an issue with my own mental health.” 

This year’s contest received nearly double the submissions from last year. Rothwell said the contest was great for beating the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Hopefully going forward [the contest] keeps growing and also the populations that it’s reaching. Maybe someone has never tried to express themselves [with art], and through this contest they can find a new outlet for themselves,” Rothwell said.

Last year, Youngstown State University alumna and licensed professional counselor, Justina Gazso, won the contest with her painting of six colorful heads, each with a different plant coming out of it. Gazso said she participated in the contest to combine her passions for mental health awareness and art. 

“Art always allows me to have control over a specific medium. I’m able to lose myself in the moment and escape my stress for a while. It then allows me to connect with others through cute animals, lost pets and sometimes funny memes,” Gazso said. “[The contest] encourages people to think about mental health as a whole and how it can look different from person to person.”

When describing her piece, Gazso said she hoped to inspire people to take better care of their mental health.

“Sometimes talking to someone can save us from many things. I wanted to encourage people to make that decision for themselves and to at least start a conversation that they deserve the help, no matter how small the reason may be,” Gazso said. 

Anne Lally, assistant director of Student Counseling Services and licensed professional clinical counselor, said the contest was important for students who want to get involved with spreading awareness for mental health.

“One of the reasons why we have this contest is to have our students connect with the [Student Counseling Services] in another aspect of not having to be a client, but connecting using the creative aspect of art in order to express yourself,” Lally said.

Lally said the contest helps students feel more comfortable going to counseling and reaching out for help.

“When students hear from their peers, I think it has a much bigger impact on them. They see what their peers are saying and they feel comfortable that someone is advocating that they know,” Lally said.

Rothwell’s art piece will be revealed and honored at a celebratory ceremony Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. in Kilcawley Center. The piece will then be displayed in the waiting room of Student Counseling Services. 

For more information about the Mental Health Awareness Art Contest, check out the Student Counseling Services website.