This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Aditi Kaul. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

In A Post COVID-19 World, Art Will Help Us Heal

ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

“Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. It is a gift only we can give one another.” – Elie Wiesel

Having survived the Holocaust, who wiser than Elie Wiesel to remind us that in times of chaos, confusion, combating an unprecedented global nightmare that hope is something we not only need but can also give one another. Hope becomes the cornerstone of working through mental health struggles in a time where we are confronted with not just the fear of contracting the virus but for our friends and family, for the change in lifestyle and restricted movement, unemployment, homeschooling or no access to school/activities for children, the lack of physical contact, the increased exposure for some in violent or difficult environments.

Health workers globally have also reported an increase in their struggles with mental health.

Billions of people confined either voluntarily or compulsorily negotiating the challenge of uncertainty that still looms larger than life. The feeling of persistent fear and chaos makes us more prone to anxiety, depression, trauma and stress-related disorders, grief for those having lost loved ones to the virus as well as increased feelings of frustration, loneliness, sadness, exhaustion, irritability and anger in day to day interactions.

While the UN has urged governments across the world to take mental health consequences seriously and ensure widespread availability of resources; countries continue to struggle to mitigate the physical health and economic impact of the pandemic and thus mental health is left up to the mental health community. However, in the last couple of months, there has been a rise in access to a range of mental health resources including teletherapy, helplines, apps and online support groups that have surfaced to allow an increase in access to trained mental health professionals.

Representational image.

Understanding The Therapeutic Arts

As an Arts-Based Psychotherapist, I see creativity as a key to healing. The core focus is utilizing and manipulating art media that we can control, allowing another space for the release of emotions, deriving pleasure from the process as well as a sense of mastery from creating something that one is proud of. This time has allowed a large section of people to explore their creativity from engaging with the arts to food, their hair, podcasts, upcycling, ideas and innovation springing up in every corner.

Art Therapy is grounded in both psychology and neuroscience; and since the right hemisphere of the brain specializes in perception and synthesizing nonverbals including, facial expressions, music, gestures; the arts have a strong role to play in the treatment of trauma which has a strong neurological basis in how it is processed, especially the disconnect between the cognitive and nonverbal (image-symbol) memories of trauma.

Post Covid-19 or in a world that has adjusted to the virus armed with vaccines etcetera the mental health impact will still remain as communities find their strength and resilience to work through the struggles that will persist or past traumas that we will fight to work through. The arts, and exploring the therapeutic process that allows healing through groups and that can be integrated into our lifestyles moving forward will be the key to manage the overwhelming mental health burden that is and will be created.

The bilateral and multidirectional nature of creativity is healing and helps rebuild the sensory and physical integration that the traumatic experience often splits. The art-materials help individuals self-regulate both behaviour and emotion and the art-making process and the content are integral parts of treatment that help to explore, comprehend and elicit verbal and nonverbal communication within an attuned therapeutic relationship to build resilience.

How We Can Incorporate The Arts For Wellbeing In Day To Day Life

While Arts Based Therapy requires a trained Arts-Based Psychotherapist to work with a client struggling with their mental health, we can incorporate a range of art based interventions grounded in creativity into our everyday lives to enhance positivity, joy, wellbeing, reduce stress, enhance life skills including problem-solving, interpersonal and intrapersonal communication, understanding the self and empathy.

Representational image.

Visual Art Media:

From resistive media like stones, sticks, wood, fallen leaves, petals, old electronics or cardboard to recycle that can be used to collage, create puppets, build their own puzzles, tell stories, upcycle and create usable items, allow children and adults alike to explore and push their creative buttons as well as challenge them to problem solve using abstract objects that they can bring together to create something meaningful allows for emotional and cognitive integration, kinaesthetic engagement and if done as a group, a family or a dyad also allows for spaces to build better communication beyond words.

While fluid art media like paint, watercolours, using spices or plants to create colour, malleable clay, mud and sand allow for an amplification of emotion that an individual may otherwise resist expressing to the self or others.


Creating music, either through instruments available or percussion instruments that can be created from household items as well as body percussion especially in groups or dyads allows for reducing stress, boosting awareness and the immune system, processing trauma, enhancing emotional and interpersonal communication and cognitive functioning.
Listening to music helps organize the firing of nerve cells in the part of the brain responsible for higher functions as well as altering mood states based on tempo, tone and key.


Utilizing body movements (not just dance) in different rhythmic or free patterns allows individuals to express themselves through a nonverbal sensory level that allows individuals to tap into a range of emotions with activities like the five rhythms and authentic movement to progressive relaxation, Tai Chi and mindful breath-based work as well as working with a partner or group to enhance connectivity through techniques like mirroring.


From journalism which can often be both cathartic as well as a narrative process, allowing us to chronicle difficulties and strengths through our lives, building perspective and strength to utilizing free writing techniques given by theorists like James Pennebaker where the client is asked to write without editing themselves for a period of 20 minutes allowing for a cathartic release.

Poetry, songwriting and story writing allows individuals to use their creativity to express themselves through symbols and metaphor to amplify the concrete expression of powerful thoughts and emotions allowing one to regain a sense of autonomy over our narrative.

Regardless of age and socio-economic strata “creativity” and the use of what we have both within and around us as the medium of expression and transformation allow art therapy to transcend through different spaces. The more creative we can become as the art therapist, the less we are bound by our conventional use of “typical” art media, resources and space. We don’t need paint to paint, or large studio spaces to move, natural resources, outside spaces can often also allow for safety and change where we don’t have the luxury of what is often mentioned in our books.

As a people, we will need to prioritize compassion over everything, to be kinder and more aware of the varied range of struggles people around us would have experienced. Compassion over timelines, over exams, over the expectation of perfection; professional and or personal. If there is anything to learn from a time like this, it’s that there are things in the world bigger than a board exam, a party/event, a particular way of working.

Perhaps to look at what some of those things are at the core of which lies support for oneself, and the ones around us to facilitate a safer, stronger world where we have time to talk, to dance, to play, to hurt but find our fight, to water our plants, to be less afraid of creating, to prioritize humanity over academic grades, to stand up for equality and for love, to question our judgement and learn to unlearn.

Because struggle and strength are not mutually exclusive; but the support individuals need to learn how to work through and carry their struggles that inform their strength is what change will look like as we come out on the other side of this pandemic. That is really when we begin to scratch the surface of how we can support those struggling with mental illness as a community and perhaps work towards a preventive ideology.

-Aditi Kaul is Lead- Arts-Based Therapy Programme & Psychologist in Fortis Healthcare.
You must be to comment.

More from Aditi Kaul

Similar Posts

By Ayush Kumar

By vishal

By Jaya Laxmi

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below