1 December 2020
As she hunches over a blank sheet of paper, clutching a bar of charcoal in her hand, the shape of a girl forms. It’s herself. First the eyes, then the nose, her lips, and face. Lastly the most prominent figure on her drawing appears: her hijab.
“I like to depict different instances in my life, kinda tell my life story and show my identity. I dive deep in to topics about struggles of being a Muslim in America, and finding a balance between my cultural identity and religious identity,” said Selma Hassanien, a senior AP Art student at Glenelg High School.
Finding art to be “therapeutic,” she believes it offers an embodiment of self-contemplation and “it’s [art] a way for everybody to kind of absorb what’s going on in their lives.” This can be crucial, especially during these trying times. Amidst this pandemic, numerous youth have been facing more mental illnesses since the virus has caused lots of abnormality, uncertainty, and unease. This health crisis “has increased stress and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression in teenagers and adults as well,” said Dr. Raisa Manejwala, a licensed clinical psychologist at Clear View Counseling Center in Annapolis Maryland. Recognizing that the most damaging aspect of stress is being unaware of how to manage it, Dr. Manejwala described stress as being “destructive.” Few teens are aware of the multitude of coping mechanisms; one of them being art.
Hassanien believes that “art is definitely a way for people to kinda take a step back and it’s a form of reflection. It’s a way for everybody to place their thoughts on a piece of paper.”
Art also supplies an outlet of conscientiousness which is a convenient way to combat stress. “Art is a mindful activity,” said Dr. Raisa. “So when I say mindful just really being in the present moment so you’re not worrying about the future. You’re not dwelling on the past.”
According to the Mental Health Foundation, taking part in art can have long term positive effects on mental health, combat against a variety of mental health disorders, and provide a source of aid during recuperation.
Although art comes with great benefits, many are hesitant to actually try it because of “the pressure of other people’s expectations,” said Hassanien.
A part of mental awareness is to think positively and to try not bring oneself down. “So even if we’re not that good at art, we haven’t had that much experience, don’t be like ‘ugh this is terrible’ or ‘this doesn’t look right’ or ‘I could have done better.’ Try not to judge yourself,” said Dr. Manejwala. “Just be like ‘okay this is my first time drawing this or coloring this. With practice I can get better.’ So really just being kind and compassionate to yourself and not really judging yourself if that’s [art] not one of your strengths.”
Art includes various styles such as pop, cubism, figurative, and abstract. “But everything takes practice,” said Hassanien. “Although you might not be good at it at first, if you keep experimenting with different styles, different media you may find a certain direction in art that you’ll enjoy.”