Texas System of Care launched the annual Texas Mental Health Creative Arts Contest in collaboration with the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health at UT Austin and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
The contest aims to raise awareness of the importance of caring for our mental health, and to launch discussion about understanding our emotions and seeking help when we are struggling. Participants may enter by submitting creative work in one of three categories (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. Last year, the contest drew 687 submissions.
For many participants, the arts contest is an opportunity to express complex emotions through creative outlets. Lauri Cherian, whose poem, “Courage,” earned an honorable mention in the adult writing category, highlighted the power of writing poetry in her own mental health journey during the COVID-19 pandemic: “It was a really great way to get all that angst out. That is why I create and write. I feel like I’ve come out of a dark season into the light through creativity.”
For students, the contest may offer a chance for them to reflect on their own challenges and inspire others. One piece that was submitted was titled Self care. The artist captioned the work with the following: “Self-care relates to my artwork as my work is a visual depiction of being there for yourself during troubling and difficult times. I wanted to evoke a feeling of warmth and love as the two figures held each other in an enveloping embrace. These figures represent the two sides of the human mind. The figure on the left represents the side of us that feels hopelessness and cynicism as a result of the hardships that come with life. The figure on the right represents the side of us that tells yourself to keep going, and encourages you during the hardest times when there’s nobody else. The bright light growing from within both forms is the hope that we give to ourselves, to carry on no matter what. The flora that’s growing from the center of the figures represents how loving ourselves leads to personal growth and improves our state of mind once we realize that there’s always someone there for you. The plants are growing due to the light glowing within both of the figures, which is seen with the light touching the leaves with a morning yellow overlay. The cold hues of the hands that’s grabbing the figures below them represent the intrusive and negative thoughts that try to bring us down and conceal our inner light. Overall, this piece is a representation of how taking care of yourself and being your own number one supporter will benefit you and encourage positive personal development.”
For more information, including past winners, and rules, visit the gallery website.