The mental health crisis is an extensive and prevalent situation for all, however, with the rise of social media, and the more recent effects that the COVID pandemic and lockdown brought us, children’s mental health has taken a steep decline. Nevertheless, there are many people that strive to combat this, and seek to improve and impact young people’s lives for the better.

For many, performing is a way to “escape” the stress or worry that circulates their day-to-day lives, and children often find that theatre and performing arts groups give them a space to be themselves and fully embrace and explore who they are in a safe and supportive environment. Furthermore, when asked how performing has helped him with his confidence, one student said that it gave him a space where he could be accepted for who he was without judgement or criticism, whilst growing his confidence and talents. Moreover, there is overwhelming evidence that children who sing, act or dance are four times more likely to be recognised for academic achievement than their non- performing friends.

I spoke to Ella Shaw, Semi-finalist of Britain’s Got Talent in 2015, who now works with over 200 children a week across private singing lessons and group classes to discuss the issues surrounding children’s mental health and how the arts can combat it. When asked how theatre has helped her personally, she replied, “I was able to escape my reality at the time. The arts helped me express and love myself”. As a child, Ella had alopecia, a loss of hair usually caused by the immune system destroying hair follicles. She explained that performing gave her the confidence she needed to make a career for herself in the arts. She also picked up on the fact that “luckily, social media wasn’t a thing back then”, recognising the problems that children face now with pressure from peers and others on the internet. Today, there are many issues young people face, and many say that performing has significant benefits on specific heath conditions; both mental and physical, and can transform people’s health and wellbeing, leading them to live happier, healthier lives. Ella’s view is that “if I have helped one young person grow in confidence, that is success for me”.

Overall, I believe that giving children a safe haven or encouraging environment that performing arts often gives to children is a small, but significant way to combat the struggles teens and youth are experiencing in their day to day lives.