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The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

Creative Arts Helps Students Prioritize Mental Health

Illustration+by+Maya+Stone
Illustration by Maya Stone

Art is an unlikely hero in addressing students’ struggles with mental health –– especially in a competitive environment like Menlo, where making time to prioritize mental health is often overlooked. 

Menlo alumnus Sean Nesamoney (‘23) created Voices for Hope, an annual benefit concert held each spring that spreads awareness about the stress-relieving qualities of music and the importance of mental health resources. Every year, student organizers invite notable guest speakers to share their experiences regarding mental health. Talented Menlo students also perform music, art and poetry for the Menlo community. 

According to Voices for Hope Co-Directors Ana Banchs and Isha Gupta, these performances are intended to break up the talks from speakers that can be hard for the audience to digest given the weight of the subject. Banchs and Gupta said that student performances also create a safe space to talk about anxiety and connect the arts and mental health at Menlo. 

For many Menlo students, art helps them prioritize their mental health. In particular, creative arts classes give students a break from their stressful academic surroundings and instead cultivate more creative interests. 

Junior Karen Xin is one of those students. Xin first encountered the arts when she began playing the piano at six years of age. Xin still practices the piano in her free time because it serves as an escape from the world around her. “I like to think of it as a way for me to connect with a different part of myself, a more creative side that doesn’t really have any rules,” Xin said. “There’s no wrong answers. I can just be free.” Instead of working towards a measurable goal, Xin tries to enjoy the process. 

Recently, Xin has begun to write songs in addition to practicing the piano. While Xin hasn’t been able to devote as much time to music this school year due to academics, athletics and social activities, she still feels it’s important to make time for pursuing passions.

Much like Xin, sophomore Carissa Satuito has also found comfort in music. Her involvement in choir, multiple musical instruments and songwriting has helped her process overwhelming emotions. “I have a lot of emotions and stuff like that, and it’s hard for me to get past them [sometimes]. [So] what I tried doing is writing [them] down in song form, which I feel like really helps me because it helps me get it out into the world,” Satuito said. 

Art is also a big part of Sophomore Diya Karthik’s life. Currently, Karthik is creating a portfolio of visual art that shines a light on overlooked issues in our society. For Karthik, her art helps her make sense of complex thoughts and emotions she’s feeling. Karthik is also an experienced dancer and dance allows her to decompress after a long day. “Even when I’m, like, most tired, when I get up and dance it just makes me feel alive,” Karthik said.  

It’s not just Menlo students that find ways to incorporate arts into their mental health journey. Upper school art teacher Nina Ollikainen has found comfort in art her whole life. Growing up in a stressful environment while struggling with anxiety and depression, Ollikainen turned to art as an escape from her everyday life. Being able to put pencil to paper takes her mind away from her worries and helps her relax. “As soon as I start drawing and picking up a pen, it takes my mind off of any worries and it makes me relax. I just love it,” Ollikainen said. This source of peace is something she wants her students and children to be able to experience as well.

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About the Contributor
Caroline Clack, Video Editor

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 2

Favorite aspect of journalism: Seeing all of our finished stories in print/online and definitely the CoA community of writers and editors

Interests outside of school: mock trial, soccer, & spending time with friends/family

Class of 2026

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