3-12, Art, Creative Thinking, depression, mental illness

How to Have a Screaming Great Time

One of the more enlightening activities I’ve done with my students in the past is to have them brainstorm things that “make them scream” whether from fear or exasperation, and use those words and phrases to reproduce the Edvard Munch masterpiece, “The Scream.” You can read in this post how I learned a valuable lesson about making assumptions one year when we did this. For our products, we used iPads, WordFoto, and the Green Screen app by DoInk. There are other ways to do Green Screen on different devices, but I haven’t found something as good as the WordFoto app, which is a paid app only on iOS. However, the absolute genius on projects like this is Tricia Fuglestad (@TriciaFuglestad), who has done quite a few Scream projects with her art students. You can get a preview of one of them here, or purchase one of her TPT packs that compile the ideas and instructions that she has created over the years (see the top of her haunted blog post for links to those).

Here is an excellent lesson on how to analyze “The Scream.” This video gives a short history, and directions for making your own Scream painting. I also like these instructions for creating a yarn version.

As it was World Mental Health Day on October 10th, and that is a topic near and dear to my heart, I also want to include a link to this article about the artist and his own struggles with insecurity and depression. Also, here is a list of children’s books that deal with fears and phobias.

I’ll be adding this to my Halloween/October Wakelet collection. You can check out the rest of those resources here!

Read this post to learn more about this pic!


You Are Not the Storm

A few weeks ago, someone I was close to committed suicide. She was a former student, friend of my daughter’s, and a beautiful person in so many ways.

I’ve talked about depression on this blog before, and I’ve been candid about my own battle with it. The truth is that I often feel like the world would be a better place without me. There are many days that I make myself go through the motions of appearing “normal” because I am afraid that I would be locked up forever in a rubber room if anyone knew the level of self-hatred that engulfs my brain.

Sadly, when I have medical issues that can be explained using x-rays or blood tests, I am relieved that there is a socially acceptable reason for my pain or discomfort. But when I experience extreme sadness or complete contempt for myself, I feel that I can only attribute it to my own failure.

Though we will never know for certain, I imagine that is what this incredible child of 19 years old must have felt – the hopelessness, the aloneness, the conviction that she could never be “enough,” the fear that admitting these feelings to anyone would horrify them or, worse, make them act differently around you in a clumsy attempt to pity something they just don’t understand.

I have been so fortunate to have the means, the awareness, and the resources to get professional help. Many do not. And that’s a tragedy. But the far larger problem in our society is that even the attempt to get help for mental illness is often viewed as a weakness or failure. Unlike an appendix that bursts or a cancerous tumor on the brain, depression is too often portrayed as the fault of the one suffering from it.

In 2018, I published a post on another blog about the sobering statistics of teenage depression. It also includes suggestions for parents on signs to watch for and ways to discuss depression with their children. And while it’s important for parents and students to be educated about depression, I want to make it clear that it is not the fault of any survivor if a loved one decides to take their own life. Our society as a whole needs to destigmatize this disease and offer resources for coping and living with depression. We don’t want your pity, fear, or accusations. Just accept that we are fighting a battle that you don’t quite understand but are willing to support.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Here are some ways you can help.

Here is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for the United States: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ (1-800-273-8255)

And if you are someone who has difficulty getting up in the morning because it’s hard to imagine any reason worth leaving bed, here is a lovely thread I found on Twitter with good suggestions:

I want all of you to know that the world is a better place because of you. Your contributions, no matter the size, make a difference. We lost an incredible soul this month, who — perhaps for just an excruciating moment — forgot the positive impact she made on this planet. Please don’t lose sight of that, no matter how much your brain tries to persuade you to the contrary. Consider the quote below from one of my favorite authors who also deals with depression, Matt Haig.

depression, K-12

Are the Kids Alright?

The short answer is, “Probably not completely.”  I mean, let’s face it.  Is anyone really alright at the moment?  We’re trying to make the best of things, look at our blessings, and looking forward to watching Hamilton on Disney Plus in July.  But in our minds, we are oscillating between helplessness and outrage as the world burns down.

At the beginning of the lockdown, I asked students to collaborate on a COVID-19 Diary. It has been awhile since anyone has added to it, but you can see that, for the most part, student were trying to be light-hearted, but definitely missing the social aspects of being at school with friends.

You can see the same themes running through NPR’s “Postcards from the Shutdown” and the incredibly creative memes submitted by the students of Noa Daniels here.  Even though the children are finding unique, and sometimes humorous, ways to display their feelings, we’ve got to remember the toll that this must be taking on them – and us.  In this incredible video that she made for a school project, Liv McNeil gives what I believe to be a very accurate representation of what many people are experiencing today. (Here is a link to an interview with McNeil about her film.)

Just like most parents, I try to give my teenager some space while still letting her know that I care.  I feel like this is the time we all need to be particularly vigilant, though.  Masks worn to disguise depression are definitely not healthy – for anyone.

I am not a doctor and do not have any training in counseling or psychology.  I am including resources that I have curated over time to help those with depression and/or their friends, parents, and educators.  Please consult a licensed professional to help you if you or someone you care about is in a crisis.  

depression, mental illness

Introducing, “Great Minds Don’t Think Alike!”

Many people reached out to me when I published, “The Elephant in Our Schools.”  Almost all of them had stories to share of experiences with the stigma that accompanies anything related to mental illness.  It saddened me to hear from so many people who feel alone and unsupported as they try to navigate this unfamiliar landscape.

I used to write an anonymous personal blog that shared some of my stories, but it has been dormant for a couple of years.  The other day, someone commented on one of my old posts, and I realized that there is no reason that these stories should be anonymous – that it only contributes to the idea that we should be ashamed of this illness.

Yet, I know that the people who subscribe to this blog, Engage Their Minds, didn’t sign up to read stories about depression.  So, I’ve decided to give this blog a sister, “Great Minds Don’t Think Alike.”  This new blog will share stories of depression, some new and some old, offer resources for those who seek them, and encourage everyone to be more understanding and less judgmental of themselves and others.  You might eventually read a few stories about Wonderbutt, my depressed bulldog sidekick, and his nemesis, Wigglebutt, who refuses to accept any emotion less intense than perpetual ecstatic happiness.

One effect of my depression is that I often feel burdened by all of the horribleness in the world and feel worse that I do nothing about it.  I saw a tweet the other day suggesting we choose just one cause to champion in the new year.  This is my cause. Please join me in making mental health a priority and eradicating the stigma of mental illness.

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