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Art Me Strong: Support Art Therapy for Inner City Youth

This petition had 49 supporters

Depression continues to be a common mental illness among teens. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately, 8% of teens meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression. African-American adolescents residing in inner city low-income environments being at even higher risk than their counterparts (possibly due to increased exposure to community violence, criminal and gang activity, drug use, and poverty). NAMI also points out that in clinical settings, such as group homes, hospitals, or rehabilitative centers, as many as 28 percent of youth experience teen depression. Typically, treatment for depression includes psychotropic medication as well as individual or group therapy. However, a recent report published in the International Journal of Academic Research indicates that art and poetry therapy are finding their place in the treatment of teen depression. They are both seen as effective methods for reducing symptoms. The report included the results of a study done on the effects of poetry therapy. The study took 29 girls whose scores on the Beck Depression Scale indicated significant symptoms of depression. The girls underwent seven sessions using poetry therapy, and later reported less symptoms of depression. The results of the study revealed that poetry therapy plays a significant role in reducing the symptoms of depression. Newark, having one of the highest African American demographics in New Jersey and also being considered an inner-city environment is clearly a likely area for many teen depression issues to arise. Accompanied by the lack of art programs in the city, it’s also safe to say there is a necessity for artistic and therapeutic outlets available to teens who need it. Based on this information, the city has an obligation to implement youth programming that uses art therapy for the improvement of mental health amongst our youth.

My plan is to inspire support in the start of a local program called Art Me Strong, which will house multiple art therapy classes and activities for children 11-18. It would involve poetry, pottery, painting, sculpting, re-purposing, theater, vocal performance and dance. I feel that the impact would be great because of the lack of programs like it in the city currently. Also, being that there is a lack of art in schools and budget cuts, I feel that it would be a great investment in improving the mental health of school age pre-teens and teens who currently lack artistic and mental health support.

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