Theatre’s Impact on Mental Health: How Theatre Can Help Without You Knowing
Your child’s mental wellbeing is extremely important. More so in this time of constant change though with the introduction of online classes for this new year, it can be tough to get the help your child might need. Luckily, you can support your growing thinker through more than just schools and psychologist’s offices. According to WayAhead.org.au, a study was done by The Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) to see if their drama program impacted the mental health of their participants over the past few decades.
They found of the more than 1,200 people who participated in the survey, 89% reported participating in the drama program had a positive impact on their self-confidence and 94% of respondents said it had a positive impact on their overall sense of wellbeing. 52% of people – slightly more than half of all respondents – indicated that ATYP had a positive or very positive impact on their anxiety levels.
These results could be because, in a digital age, theatre provides an environment to personally engage with others and can be a practical way to address serious issues that society is facing such as bullying, friendship, family relationships, etc. According to the report, “One person noted that as a young boy, he suffered from bullying and severe anxiety. ‘ATYP helped bring me out of my shell and nurtured my passion for performing.’”
Theatre can also promote self-confidence and self-expression. Fraser Corfield, the Artistic Director of ATYP states, “We talk about the importance of self-expression and telling your own story and “finding your tribe”, which is a term that youth theatres use over and over, …” and a “tribe” is exactly what children who participate in the performing arts can find. In theatre, you are encouraged to be 100% your authentic self so the friendships and bonds you make are usually incredibly strong and long-lasting.
The most beautiful thing about this connection between mental health and theatre is, “these benefits occur without any conversation around mental health. So there’s part of me that goes ‘we need to keep that because I think the death knell of theatre, and theatre for young people, is that we keep using theatre to try and teach young people about something’,” according to Fraser. The benefits come solely from the students having fun transforming into new characters, creating scenes with friends, or just getting to be silly by moving around the room in creative ways.