Mental Health Awareness Week

Improving Mental Well-being through Art Therapy

Creating a safe and welcoming environment for those who have fled violence and trauma is a key part of our work

By Action Against Hunger

May 14 2018

For Mental Health Awareness Week, we are shining a light on the vital work Action Against Hunger is Doing to help Vulnerable Men, Women and Children with psychosocial support. This article focuses on the use of Art Therapy in our projects around the world. 

Creating a safe and welcoming environment for those who have fled violence and trauma is a key part of our work around the world. As psychological and physical wellbeing are intrinsically linked, our nutrition programmes have the most impact when they are coupled with mental health ‘first aid’ sessions.  

We run psychosocial group sessions for different age groups, each adapted to the developmental needs of the beneficiaries. One of the methods used in these sessions is art therapy. Allowing children and adults to find a form of release and process the trauma they have experienced in as essential part of supporting them to improve their overall wellbeing. Our staff design programmes specifically to help refugees manage stress, process loss and improve self-esteem. For children, art therapy also helps to improve fine-motor skills, encourage peer-to-peer engagement and build confidence. As part of our Mental Health Awareness week series, here is a snapshot of some of our art therapy around the world. 

Central African Republic

In Central African Republic our team worked with a group of girls at Gobongo school in Bangui. All the children suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and showed symptoms such as aggression, bed-wetting, night terrors, lack of concentration and developmental disorders. The girls were not asked directly what they have experienced, but are instead encouraged to use art as a way to share their memories and explain their trauma.  


The people of Colombia are slowly coming to the end of the most painful chapter in the country’s history, after half a century of armed conflict between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the Government. Despite a peace process, violence persists in many areas of the country and thousands of families have been displaced. Our team in Colombia have run numerous psychosocial programmes, one of which was an art therapy session with young children in Guajira. 



Indonesia has been hit by a string of earthquakes over the past decade. The constant fear of the following quake has had a psychological impact on the population, leaving people in a state of constant uncertainty. Our teams worked with school age children to help them process anxiety and stress through art therapy sessions.  


Action Against Hunger was the first organisation to enter and provide a mental health ‘first aid’ response in the villages north of Mosul. In Bawiza, four kilometres north of Mosul, our team ran sessions on breathing techniques, talking about emotions and using art as a way to express both their experiences as fears.  


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CAR : Da Silva for Action against Hunger

Colombia: Lys Arango for Action Against Hunger

Indonesia: Franklin for Action Against Hunger

Iraq: Lys Arango for Action Against Hunger