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American Legion Auxiliary—The Power of The Arts in Suicide Prevention

“There are so many ways that art and music and writing — all of the creative arts — can help,” said Jillian Thompson, creative arts therapist/music therapist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “It provides a way to self-express when you don’t actually have the words. So many times, we know how we feel, we know what we need to say, we just don’t have the right words to say it.” 

“Sometimes when we have depression or anxiety or the other symptoms that are leading us to be suicidal, we have trouble focusing and being motivated, and music can really help the brain to focus in and motivate it on what it needs to do,” she said. “There are a lot of ways it can help — it can control our heart rate, it can help blood pressure, all of our vital signs, it can reduce stress, and the beauty of it is it’s very adaptable and very individualized.”

“Music and art therapy have so much benefit and so many good outcomes from people with any mental health, but definitely patients with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts,” she said. “I definitely think it’s had a lot of positive outcomes.”

(Sara Fowler, Staff Writer, quoting Jillian Thompson)


Systematic Review of Arts-Based Interventions to Address Suicide Prevention and Survivorship in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America

A growing body of research connecting the arts to positive health outcomes suggests that arts-based interventions could help address suicide risk factors. A recent scoping review presents a logic model identifying components of the arts that produce positive psychological, physiological, social, and behavioral health responses (Fancourt & Finn, 2019; see Supplemental Materials).

Arts-based interventions are multimodal and function in layers with multiple components and compound health benefits operating at one time (Fancourt & Finn, 2019).


For example, an acting class combines the benefits of five health promoting components—imagination, emotion, social interaction, physicality, and cognitive stimulation—each of which connect to different positive health responses and together may heighten impacts.

There is clear evidence that arts interventions can support mental health (Fancourt et al., 2019Gallant et al., 2019Leckey, 2011Perkins et al., 2016Secker et al., 2017). They facilitate dialogue, reduce stigma, and enhance expression, coping skills, empathy, and personal and cultural resonance, all of which address risk factors for suicide (Fancourt et al., 2019Michalak et al., 2014Sonke et al., 2020).

They can also facilitate expression of emotions like entrapment, loneliness, and burdensomeness (Aguilar, 2017), cultivate belonging (Perkins et al., 2016), and protect against suicidal ideation (Kasahara-Kiritani et al., 2015). However, evidence regarding how the arts can support suicide prevention and survivorship is limited.




Music Therapy

Patricia Wormington, MMT, NMT

Heartland Music Therapy Services

(307) 213-0229—Cody,  WY


Art Therapy

Alexander Rettinghouse, PPC

Alliance Christian Counseling, LLC

(307) 250-1224—Cody, WY


Art Therapy

Erin Brindle, LPC, ATR-BC

New Creations Art Therapy and Counseling
(307) 227-3986—Cody, WY

Team member: Healthy Park County


Destructive/Reconstructive Art

First, you begin with creating “deconstructive” art. You can create an image using paint or other art
medium. Or you can make a collage using old magazines to cut up pictures. After you have expressed all
your depressive or angry feelings through this art creation, then you can tear it up.
Second, using the torn-up pieces of your “deconstructive” art, you then you create a new image of
“reconstructive” art. This is not meant to be necessarily happy or positive. It just needs to be different
than the deconstructive art piece. It should reflect other types of feelings you are having instead of your
depressed or angry feelings.
Box or Bottle Reminders

Write down all the ideas you can think of that you enjoy doing on a piece of paper. Make these ideas
look artistic on the page. Then cut these ideas into strips of paper and put them into a box or a bottle.
When you are feeling stressed and can’t think of what you can do to make yourself feel better, pull out
one of the strips of paper and go do it.
Daily Drawing Journal

Keep a journal of your feelings through drawings—not in writing. Every day, draw pictures of how you
are feeling for 5 minutes. Be consistent. When this is done on a daily basis, you will understand your
thoughts and feelings better.

Suggestions from:

Alex Rettinghouse.

Alliance Christian Counseling, LLC. (

307) 250-1224

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