Winners of the Pabst Steinmetz Award for Innovation in the Arts and Wellness Promote mental health resilience

The arts and humanities have a unique ability to resonate with the human spirit across time, space, and social and economic condition. When this power is harnessed by the community through sustainable, evidence-based, and interdisciplinary initiatives, the potential for positive human impact is limitless.

Building on this idea, the Pabst Steinmetz Foundation Prize for Arts and Innovation awards $25,000 in grants to two applicants each year who combine programs in the College of Arts and Humanities and another UCF college as well as an outside organization. The awards were established in 2018 to build sustainable models of arts and wellness innovation at UCF and in the Central Florida community.

The winners of the Pabst Steinmetz Foundation Arts and Wellness Innovation Awards exemplify the award’s ability to bring together departments across campus to effect positive change in society. Proposals from 2021 responded to that year’s theme of strength, grit, and resilience.

Last year’s two winning projects focus on using the arts and humanities to promote mental health resilience in critical populations.

Enhancing the social-emotional resilience of high school students

Mind Matters: Building high school students’ social-emotional resilience through theater He is a collaboration with the UCF School of Performing Arts and the Department of Psychology. The project is based on Act Out Justice, a youth theater for social change program created through a partnership between the Orlando Repertory Theater and Orange County Public Schools (OCPS). Act Out Justice develops plays that address social justice issues inspired by students’ personal experiences. Mind Matters He expands this programming to create plays and educational materials that focus on issues surrounding the mental health of high school students.

During the listening phase of the project, a professional development day was organized with theater educators from local high schools to identify the most prevalent issues surrounding mental health in the classroom. Twenty-four responses to the questionnaire were collected, followed by general discussions and one-on-one conversations. Twelve teachers were then selected to participate in the project.

“The big things we noticed in the data was that anxiety and depression are two of the most common things our young people navigate, and this disproportionately affects our students from a variety of backgrounds, including students who identify as gay and/or students of color,” says Emily Freeman, principal. Community Partnerships at the Orlando Repertory Theatre.

Act Out Justice workshop. (Photo courtesy of the Orlando Repertory Theatre)

The project team commissioned 12 diverse playwrights from across the country to develop plays that address the issues identified in the surveys. Playwrights conducted Zoom sessions with each class dedicated to discussing and developing plays together. Selections of the plays will be published for teachers to use in future lesson plans addressing mental health resilience.

“Theatre-specific classes provide rich opportunities for students to explore these important issues, because the art form inherently promotes dialogue and builds empathy.” – Elizabeth Horn 10MFACo-professor

We know that the mental health needs of young people in the United States are essential. Theater classes provide rich opportunities for students to explore these important issues, because the art form inherently encourages dialogue and builds empathy.” Elizabeth Horn 10MFAAssociate Professor of Theater for Young Audiences MFA and Project Researcher. “Currently, we are at an exciting point in our process. All 12 playwrights have submitted first drafts of their plays. UCF psychology students and theater teaching artists, many of whom are students, have completed residencies at 12 high schools in Orange County, during which they direct talks about those plays.”

Psychology graduate students on the project team research mental health issues addressed in the plays and provide additional resources, ensuring the plays present the issues accurately and consciously. Clinical psychology professors Brian Fisak and Stephen Berman also collaborate with educators in the program to discuss how to address mental health issues in the classroom.

“One of the things that interests me about this program is that there is a huge need for mental health services, especially in schools. That includes not just treatment, but also prevention and early intervention — helping students know where to go for resources if something comes up, or If their friends have a problem, says Vesak. It’s a matter of improving dialogue and reducing stigma surrounding mental health issues. In doing so, this project will help children increase their coping skills, help them become more willing to talk about these things and be aware of when in which someone may need additional assistance or services.”

Supporting mental health resilience in nursing

Strengthening mental health resilience of hospital nurses through a peer support training program using video testimonials It draws on UCF RESTORE’s REACT program with researchers in the College of Nursing and the Department of Writing and Rhetoric to bring comic therapy to healthcare professionals.

UCF RESTORES, a nationally acclaimed nonprofit clinical research center and treatment clinic, developed the REACT (Recognize, Assess, Advocate, Coordinate, Trace) peer support program to better familiarize first responders with mental health stress injury assessment and response. This project expands this program to also include peer support training for healthcare professionals, starting with nurses.

“REACT is a course designed specifically up to this point for the first responder community. We created the same course and adapted it further for healthcare workers, changing the scenarios and some of the situations, to separate them from first responders,” says Kaylee Neisler, medical outreach coordinator at UCF RESTORES . “It is designed to introduce, improve and strengthen peer support skills among peers in a healthcare setting. What we teach is how to recognize mental health, stress, injury, stress and illness among each other and what to do in a situation where someone needs professional intervention or support “.

Writing and Rhetoric faculty members Blake Scott and Nathan Holick present the creation of autobiographical comics in these workshops as an innovative method for art therapy and strengthening peer support skills. The team is currently conducting research, preparing a series of comic workshops, and creating comic-based material for inclusion in REACT workshop case scenarios. The team created five different surveys to measure the effectiveness of the training and how willing the nurses felt ready to help their peers with the interactive workshops and storyboards.

“At the end of last spring, we put together a typical two-and-a-half-hour workshop to see what it would be like to introduce comics and graphic medicine to healthcare professionals and see what kind of disarming little activities we can use to help nurses produce their own biographical short comic stories,” Holick says. “We were able to gather feedback about what it might feel like for someone who is nursing, but is not primarily an artist, to be able to participate in this type of workshop.”

according to 19 Jan Davis Ph.Dassistant professor in the School of Nursing, the Pabst Steinmetz Award for Innovation in the Arts and Wellness arrived just in time to help the team create programs that respond to the mental health issues faced by healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The funding for the Pabst Steinmetz Prize was very timely and useful, as the pandemic has been a traumatic experience for many nurses caring for COVID patients.” – 19 Jan Davis Ph.DAssistant Professor

“The funding for the Pabst Steinmetz Prize was very timely and useful, because the pandemic has been a traumatic experience for many nurses caring for COVID patients,” says Davis. “This training will help nurses not only deal with the problems they encounter through comic therapy, but it will also help them recognize if a peer, another nurse or healthcare provider is having a problem and needs support, possibly from similar training.”

Do you have a vision for an interdisciplinary project to strengthen our local or national community through the arts, humanities, and community wellness? Whether you are introducing a new initiative or building on an existing one, the Pabst Steinmetz Foundation’s Arts and Innovation Awards 2022-23 will award project proposals with the resources to put the plans into action.

Applications for prizes are Open until Friday, December 16, 2022. Projects involving a program from the College of Arts and Humanities, another UCF faculty, and an external community organization are encouraged to apply. Winners will be announced in late January 2023.

This year’s theme is “No Place Like Home,” based on the idea that sharing experiences, access, and community engagement enhance physical, mental, and social well-being and strengthen our collective communities—the places we call home. As such, proposals should focus on collaborating with diverse organizations, communities, or populations to enhance our sense of place through the arts and wellness, and seek solutions to help our local, national, and global communities recover.

Preview the application and view previous award winners here.

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