He was on his bed telling the doctor he didn’t want to go through chemotherapy anymore. His mind in a place he thought he could never get back from. His mom just recently diagnosed with dementia. How frustrating it is to take care of your own mother? The voices in his head get louder, he wishes he could shut them out. He doesn’t want anymore. No more chemo, no more cancer, no more pain. Scars from his operation, pancreatic cancer, reminding him of the horrors he has gone through. His scar tells a story, his experience through his toughest fight. The screaming voices keep growing, more and more. His eyes fill with tears trying to hold it back. He would rather die than live through this war with himself.
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a serious medical condition where you feel overwhelmingly sad. There are many effects of depression such as lost of interest in activities once enjoyed, loss of appetite, thoughts of death or suicide and etc. According to healthline.com, around 350 million people suffer from depression and according to the Word Health Organisation, around 800,000 people take their own lives every year. Almost every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life.
Depression is caused by many things. One because there is an imbalance of chemicals in your brain. But one of the leading causes of depression is mainly personal problems. Examples of this could be being isolated from a social group, the feeling of being alone, a death or loss and etc. Just like causes of depression, there are many types of cures of depression. Antidepressants and psychotherapy, also known as ‘talking therapy’ are 2 of the most used ways to cure depression. But a not so commonly used but very effective cure is creative therapy. According to everydayhealth.com, creative therapy is one of the most unique ways people treat depression. Creative therapy helps you find out who you are, where you are, what you have, and what you need to get where you want to be in life. Danny Raven Tan who has used creative therapy through painting helps him release. Christina Lau, who was involved in a car accident in 2010 which left her paralyzed from her neck down uses painting as a way for her to escape reality. Christina Lau was an avid diver and an athlete and her accident took a big toll on her.
(Image from TODAY Online)
Sometimes it is hard to express our deepest and darkest emotions to a stranger, friend, family member or anyone. The fear of being judged, showing weakness or being looked down upon. Covering yourself with a mask showing the side of you which everyone is used to. A painting of a flower is less threatening than your painful words, feelings that you keep inside of you. Besides being able to speak through art, art therapy also creates a bridge with your feelings. Being depressed sometimes makes you feel ‘incapable’ of feeling again. Creating art helps you express your emotion and feeling through a different form than words. Once you have created an external part of yourself through a piece of art, the feeling of being able to feel emotion again and realising it has always been there. Since the American Art Therapy Association was found in 1969, many therapists have been trained in both art and therapy. Art therapy include drawing, painting, and sculpting, or other creative methods of expression such as dance, drama, or music therapy. This type of therapy helps people cope with their inner feelings such as anger, guilt, trauma, shame or sadness. This form of therapy can help bring relief to depression.
Danny Raven Tan, a singaporean artist who has gone through pancreatic cancer his mother diagnosed with dementia and his father was dying, creates pieces of art to express how he is feeling. He also uses art as a way to get away from things, to get lost in the moment. Depression took over Danny Raven Tan after his chemotherapy as he didn’t want to suffer anymore, he wanted to end everything. Danny had 1 big scar on his abdomen which he could never accept. A constant reminder of what he has gone through. Danny Raven Tan suffered from pancreatic cancer and never told his parents. The pain, guilt, the voices in his head getting loud. Hiding one of your biggest secrets from his parents and eventually his mom gets diagnosed with dementia. The feeling of never being able to his mother about his cancer hits his soul like a truck.
In conclusion art therapy for depression is one of the most widely used to those who need help the most but are ashamed to tell others. Danny Raven Tan and Christina Lau uses art to get through life by expressing their feelings through art. Art lets you express yourself without you showing all the emotion within yourself. It lets you express your feelings without the use of words, without the rage, without the darkness which is inside of you. According to Semir Zeki, a neurologist, that when you identify a piece of art as beautiful, the amount of dopamine in your brain increases similar to when you feel love.
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Mitchell, LMFT Contributed by Douglas. “Art Therapy as a Treatment for Depression.” GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog, Good Therapy, 5 Feb. 2018, www.goodtherapy.org/blog/art-therapy-depression-expression-0619125.
Collection, Summit Entertainment/Everett. “8 Unconventional Ways to Ease Depression.” EverydayHealth.com, EverydayHealth, 10 Nov. 2014, www.everydayhealth.com/depression-pictures/unconventional-ways-to-ease-depression.aspx#/slide-3.
Fang, Joy. “Art Pieces at Tiffin Gallery.” TODAY Online, TODAY Online, 11 Feb. 2016, www.todayonline.com/entertainment/arts/spore-artist-danny-raven-tan-showcases-his-works-flat
Second Image was taken by a teacher during Danny Raven Tan’s talk at United World College East.