Semester Story

Art as a mental health tool during COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to be an issue throughout the World, many people are struggling with their mental health. Researchers have begun to investigate alternative methods like art as mental health resources.

Mental Health and the effect of COVID-19

792 million people deal with mental health issues globally. That is 10.7% of the global population (Mental Health). The graphic below shows the share of the global population that suffers with a given mental health condition. 

The global population and their mental health issues inforgrpahic
Infographic showing the percentage of the global population that suffers from a given mental health issue. Created on Canva by Mackenzie Frank

This graphic is significant as it shows just how many people deal with mental health issues without the added stress of a pandemic. 

Many people have struggled with their mental health more than normal during COVID-19. Fear, isolation, and loneliness all onset by the pandemic have taken a toll on the mental wellbeing of many individuals (Covid-19 and Mental Health: Could Visual Art Exposure Help). According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, “about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019”. This data shows that the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected mental health and caused more people to feel anxious and depressed ( Kaiser Family Foundation). Given this data, a new and innovative mental health tool is needed to aid the many people who are suffering from mental health difficulties due to COVID-19. 

Graphic art could be the mental health tool to accomplish this.

Why Art?

Anything that encourages creativity is good for mental health, according to Feeling Artsy? Here’s How Making Art Helps Your Brain. Art can encourage creativity because it pushes individuals to create physical depictions of things that are both real and imaginary. Creating art can also improve mental health issues by reducing stress and stimulating the reward center in the human brain(Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants Responses Following Art Making)(Functional near-infrared spectroscopy…). Creating art can also aid in mental health struggles by creating opportunities for social connection (How arts can improve your mental health). Interestingly, “there were no differences in health outcomes between people who identify as experienced artists and people who don’t”(Feeling Artsy? Here’s How Making Art Helps Your Brain, Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants Responses Following Art Making). This means that anyone with mental health issues can try creating art as a way to improve their mental health and cope with symptoms.

How to start creating art infographic
Infographic showing the steps to become in artist. Created on Canva by Mackenzie Frank

Why art during covid-19?

Although art can be a great mental health tool at any time, the benefits of creating art for mental health have only grown through the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, as new COVID-19 variants arise and the pandemic continues to go on for longer and longer, mental health coping strategies are needed (COVID-19 and Mental Health: Could Visual Art Exposure Help). One finding that is crucial for art aiding mental health during COVID-19 is that making art can create social connections in a community (How can arts improve your mental health). People who struggle with mental health could join online art classes or talk with others about art online to help with some of their mental health symptoms like loneliness and isolation during COVID-19 (How can arts improve your mental health). Also, it has been shown that the physical process of creating art can improve mental health symptoms during the pandemic (Covid-19 and Mental Health: Could Visual Art Exposure Help). A study titled, Covid-19 and Mental Health: Could Visual Art Exposure Help?, found that during the pandemic doing activities that stimulate the reward center in the brain and being in environments that have rewarding connotations can greatly reduce stress.

Both of these elements are present when individuals go through the process of creating art. The reduction in stress caused by creating art can go on to improve mental health issues like anxiety and depression (Covid-19 and Mental Health: Could Visual Art Exposure Help). Moreover, “art can help express complex feelings or sensations, avoiding verbal interpretations while allowing for diversion and emotional escape, as has been shown, even during extremely challenging situations”, like the current condition of the COVID-19 pandemic (Covid-19 and Mental Health: Could Visual Art Exposure Help). When individuals are expressing their feelings through creating art, they are processing through their mental health difficulties which could help improve their state. Overall, the introduction of art as a mental health tool during the COVID-19 pandemic is a good idea because it has been proven to improve mental health issues and their symptoms over time.  

 

Personal Stories of Art During COVID-19

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many independent artists created collections as a coping mechanism to deal with their personal mental health struggles. Artist Keri Fitzwater discusses her collection “Which Direction” and its connection to COVID-19 in the video to the left titled, Mackenzie Frank: Semester Story Video.


Overall, graphic art can be used as a tool to help groups and individuals improve their mental health. Art can be an effective mental health tool because it is mentally engaging and promotes social connection, two things that are important in improving mental health. Especially during the loneliness and stress onset by the COVID-19 pandemic, graphic art has grown as a tool to help people cope with their mental health struggles. 

Photo of 4 of the pieces from Keri Fitzwaters collection, "Which Direction"
Photo of "Which Direction" by Keri Fitzwater. Photo taken by Mackenzie Frank
Photos of Keri Fitzwaters collection, "Which Direction"
Photo of "Which Direction" by Keri Fitzwater. Photo taken by Mackenzie Frank