Feature

A child is more likely to suffer from a mental illness than from leukemia, diabetes and AIDS combined in the United States--a sad truth that parents and educators often overlook. But a new art exhibit is helping to change that by increasing knowledge about and awareness of child mental illnesses.

"Childhood Revealed: Art Expressing Pain, Discovery and Hope" is a touring exhibit of 103 paintings, drawings and sculptures by children ages 4 to 18 who struggle with manic-depression, anorexia, anxiety, depression, autism and other problems. The exhibit, already seen by 2 million people since it began touring in 1999, was created by mental health professionals at the New York University Child Study Center.

"One of the things people really respond to with kids is their artwork," says Robin Goodman, PhD, one of the project's founders. "Art allows children to have their own independent voice, and we thought it would be a great way to get people to pay attention to the issue of child mental illness."

The exhibit is also the centerpiece of the National Child Mental Health Initiative, a public awareness campaign formed by the New York Child Study Center. APA is among the initiative's 11 partners, which also include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Welfare League and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

To create the exhibit, Goodman and Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, invited psychologists, teachers and psychiatrists from all over the country to submit art by children with mental health problems and asked a panel of scholars, artists and educators to choose the exhibit's artworks.

Koplewicz and Goodman also worked with art book publisher Harry N. Abrams Inc. to create a companion book with the same name, which includes stories about children with mental illness, information on mental illness and resources and advice for parents from mental health professionals, including psychologists Constance Ahrons, PhD, and Howard Gardner, PhD.

The exhibit opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in November 1999 and has since visited Atlanta; New Orleans; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Dallas; Los Angeles; Houston; San Francisco; Austin, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Roswell, N.M. Currently in Buffalo, N.Y., the exhibit will visit Santa Fe, N.M.; Washington, D.C.; Cleveland; Arvada, Colo.; Oconomowoc, Wis.; and Phoenix before finishing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

To help parents and teachers who visit the exhibit with children, "Childhood Revealed" has a parent and teacher guide to the exhibit, a hands-on exhibit workbook for children and pre-exhibit and post-exhibit activity cards to educate students about mental health issues.

Further Reading

For more information on "Childhood Revealed" exhibit locations and the National Child Mental Health Initiative, visit www.AboutOurKids.org, a resource of the New York University Child Study Center.