Gratitude practices and youth suicide

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Project Overview

The goal of my project is to bring more self-awareness and to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression at early stages in hope to prevent youth suicide through the use of art and gratitude practices.

Background information:

Suicide is a serious issue that is very little discussed about in most people’s lives while being one of the major causes of death around the world. Especially in Japan, the youth suicide rates are very high and is one of the leading causes of death among young people. “Japan is the only economically advanced country where suicide is the leading cause of death among those 15-34” (WHO) While the reason for a person to die from suicide is stemmed from different things including financial pressure and isolation, mental ilness including stress and depression are one of the major causes. Mental illness is still very much a taboo in Japan and many people don’t seek help, are scared to talk about it, and tend to hide it within themselves. It is all a part of the ‘shame culture’ that exists within the society. After my interview with Selena Hoy from TELL, Tokyo English Life Line, I learned that suicide is not something that happens over night rather something that gets piled up over time. She talked about the different stages leading up to suicide and how it is easier to prevent when mental illness is detected at an early stage. While this may sound like a simple plan to eliminate suicide, early stage depression and stress are easy to go unnoticed. So what can I do?

My solution

If it can go unnoticed, how do we help? How can we make people notice? Is everybody struggling with a mental illness? These were some of the many questions I had while starting my project. I didn’t know where exactly to start. This was when I decided to use the concept of gratitude that I learned about in my positive psychology class as a part of my Catalyst Conference Project. This is because gratitude, “helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” (Harvard Health) I decided that I wanted to tackle the early stages of mental illnesses in the hope to reduce or eliminate them before they escalate. This is how I got to creating a ‘hands-on’ pamphlet/book people can download and use as an interactive beginner’s guide to gratitude practices along with the incorporation of art. Considering that these issues were hard to identify, I wanted to create something that was easy to access and that anybody could benefit from.  I felt that this was the most effective way to present gratitude into people’s lives. 

Benefits of gratitude practices 

  • Consciously practicing gratitude can reduce anxiety by training the brain to pay more attention to positive emotions and thoughts. 
  • Robert Emmons studies on stress and health: 
    • “Indicated that gratitude effectively releases stress hormones and increases positive emotions like happiness. Commitment to daily gratitude practice reduces an array of negative emotions and is a natural stress detox for the mind and body.” 
  • Positive mental state grows stronger with more use and practice 
  • It helps people refocus on what they have rather than what they lack

Benefits of art (therapy):

  • Great way to express emotions without words
  • It can process complex feelings one may have 
  • It is self-revealing, brings self-awareness, and can help one recognize their feelings that had remained in the subconscious
  • The emotional release gives you an outlet for expressing feelings
  • Relax your mind and body

Hey guys! Thank you for taking a look at my project, I hoped you enjoyed it!




1 comment

  1. Hey Solana! Great project this is really interesting. A question I have is how do you incorporate these practices in your life?

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