Mental Wellness Awareness Month offers an opportunity to take a closer look at the prognosis of mental health in our communities, schools, and homes. Who is affected by mental illness? What impact does mental illness have on our communities? According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 13-20% of children, ages 3 to 17, in the United States experience a mental disorder in a given year.
The mental wellness of children is an integral component of development, impacting their ability to interact socially, develop relationships, access academics, and manage challenging emotions. There are many elements that contribute to the development of a child’s mental health including biological and genetic factors, familial environment, as well as exposure to risk factors in the community and at school.
With such a surprising number of youth facing mental illness, it is important to consider what resources are available to help meet their needs. Preventative measures and early identification are crucial in the treatment of childhood mental illness. Providing support for parents, families, and children who are struggling can be an effective means for helping these children develop resiliency and learn strategies to navigate through life’s challenges. An emphasis on social and emotional learning is essential in order to cultivate safe, healthy, and caring environments for our youth.
Dance/movement therapy (DMT) can be a powerful option for children and adolescents to promote mental wellness. Dance/movement therapists may facilitate therapeutic sessions to promote integration of the physiological and psychological aspects of child development and provide a multi-sensorial approach to social, emotional, and academic learning. Children are natural movers, thus, dance can be an inviting and non-threatening way for them to express themselves.
Through the use of movement, certified dance/movement therapists are trained to assist children’s explorations of their self-awareness, self-confidence, emotional regulation, empathy, and social skills. Dance/movement therapists use large motor play, physical regulation, nonverbal communication, problem solving skills, and collaborative movement games with individuals and groups of children. In these settings, dance becomes the platform upon which both the physical and psychological wellness of a child can thrive. The therapeutic dance can begin to move a child from a place of suffering, towards a place of safety, validation, and connection.
For additional information information regarding DMT, mental wellness, and children, feel free to check out these resources: