Student Mural Speaks To Teen Depression

High school senior Molly Bagg hangs a mural she created on the subject of art therapy and teen depression in Falmouth Public Library's children's room.ELIZABETH W. SAITO/ENTERPRISE - High school senior Molly Bagg hangs a mural she created on the subject of art therapy and teen depression in Falmouth Public Library's children's room.

On Tuesday afternoon, May 27,  Falmouth High School senior Molly S. Bagg hung up a mural she created on the subject of teen depression in the Falmouth Public Library’s Children’s Room.

“I don’t think adults realize how competitive [high school] is these days,” Ms. Bagg said. Students feel pressure to succeed on many fronts: in academics, sports, extra-curricular activities, peers, and family. “And they’re somehow supposed to balance it all and it’s really a difficult thing to do,” Ms. Bagg said.

Ms. Bagg suffered from depression during her high school years. Academic stress was a contributing factor, she said, and the experience taught her that “grades are not important ... it’s so much better just to feel good about yourself.”

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For her senior project, Ms. Bagg decided to turn the spotlight on teen depression, which affects one in 10 children under the age of 18 in the United States, she said.

When someone is depressed, they feel isolated and ashamed. “So they kind of keep it a secret,” Ms. Bagg said. “But it’s an illness ... there’s no shame behind it. It’s something that needs to be talked about more often. And it can be fixed.”

At a public hearing on the school budget this past winter, when firing art teachers was an option on the table, Ms. Bagg spoke in front of a packed auditorium. “Art saved me,” she said, asking the school committee to spare art teachers from the budget cuts.

At the library this week, Ms. Bagg said she finds art a useful tool for helping her relieve stress and express herself. And so she decided to center her senior project around art therapy for depression. (For their senior project, all students must identify a problem, write a research paper about it, and then execute some action in the community to relieve the problem.)

Ms. Bagg talked to 8th graders at the Lawrence School about depression, explaining the difference between having a bad week and clinical depression. She then introduced the concept of art therapy and instructed the students to choose an emotion and try to depict it visually, using the graphic concepts of pattern, color, value and medium.

“One kid was trying to express sadness, but he insisted on using the glitter glue,” Ms. Bagg said. “And I was like ‘sadness and glitter glue’ ”—Ms. Bagg made a skeptical face—“but he did a great job.”

The boy created glittering blue teardrops with gold centers, invoking a cloud with silver lining theme.

The students drew their pictures on square pieces of paper; Ms. Bagg then assembled the squares together to form the mural. The mural will be on display through the summer.

In the fall, Ms. Bagg will attend the University of Tampa in Florida. She plans to major in communications. Her dream job—“if I’m good enough”—is to work in the Disney World art department, helping to create fantasy worlds, where “people can escape the bad things.”

In Massachusetts, approximately 500 people commit suicide every year. Teenagers on the Cape are twice as likely to commit suicide than their peers in the rest of the state. The Cape and Islands Suicide Prevention Coalition is sponsoring a talk by adolescent mental health expert Lisa Machoian on Thursday, June 12, in at the Hampton Inn in West Yarmouth at 6:30 PM. Dr. Machoian will discuss how to recognize depression in teens and tools to help them build resiliency and a positive self-image. 

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