AUSTIN, Texas – Texas children and adults can inspire conversations about mental health through their art. The University of Texas at Austin, Texas System of Care, and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission are sponsoring the 2020 Texas Mental Health Creative Arts Contest, which opens Dec. 1 and runs through March 1, 2020, to help fight the mental health stigma.
“The art from this contest has time and again proved to be so moving,” said Molly Lopez, a research professor who directs UT’s Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health and leads evaluation of Texas System of Care. “Not only is this an opportunity for self-expression, it also is a chance to have important, public discussions about mental health conditions that affect millions of people.”
Participants enter by submitting creative work (original artwork, writing or photography) that draws on the contest theme – “Why Does Mental Health Matter to You?” The contest is open to Texans of all ages and is judged in four age groups: elementary, middle school, high school and adult.
Winners in each age group and category will receive prizes. Winning submissions will be featured in public galleries around Austin, including at the Texas State Capitol.
“The reason it’s good to talk about mental health is because building it inside hurts way worse than the actual problem,” said Tarja Santiago, an elementary school student who won honors for her original artwork “Anxiety.” “They don’t think they have anybody to talk to when really there is a bunch of people you can reach out to. … And that is why I think it’s an awesome idea to tell people how you are.”
For students such as Tarja – and the adult participants – the arts contest is a skill-building opportunity to practice expressing emotions using creative outlets. Last year, the contest drew 773 submissions.