Art therapy program helps Townships students tackle big questions

Art therapy program helps Townships students tackle big questions
(Photo : Courtesy CIUSSS de l’Estrie-CHUS)

By Ruby Pratka

Local Journalism Initiative

Grade 6 students at Lennoxville Elementary School (LES) are addressing life’s big questions through art as part of a project aimed at supporting youth mental health.

Catherine Malboeuf-Hurtubise, a Bishop’s University professor and psychologist specializing in the intersection of child psychology, the arts, education and climate change, is part of the team coordinating the project through the Institut universitaire de première ligne en santé et services sociaux (IUPLSSS) and the CHUS research centre. She explained that the project has been running since 2019 and now covers several English- and French-medium elementary schools and nonprofits working with elementary-age students in Estrie, in the Laurentians and in the Montreal region. Phelps Helps in Stanstead also participates in the program.

Malboeuf-Hurtubise, whose research interests also include preventive care, explained that the workshops are aimed at preventing normal existential questions from giving rise to more serious mental health problems, by discussing such questions frankly and openly.

“Oftentimes as adults, we’re afraid to kind of dive into these questions, and we seem to be even more afraid when these questions come from kids – but everyone asks themselves existential

questions, right? They’re not the same questions if you’re four, if you’re 15 or if you’re 45, of course, but you still think about death [at any age],” she said. “Kids do ask themselves questions about existential issues, about life and death, about love, about climate change, and they don’t have the space to explore it. But if you don’t have the space to explore the questions you’re asking yourself, that’s where anxiety can come in. If you do have the space to express how you feel, it has a calming effect.”

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