According to a survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center, 5.4 million students between the ages of 12-17 skipped school at some point during the school year because of bullying. Victims of bullying are at risk for chronic depression, self-harm, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorders. In the final part of our series, we demonstrate the importance of making virtual education an option available to every student.
Amaranthia Sepia is an aesthete whose art fulfills a purpose. As a person that struggles with anxiety and stress, Amaranthia uses art to raise awareness about mental illnesses in hopes of also connecting with others who have similar experiences with their mental health.
For Amaranthia, art is a therapeutic outlet that helps her cope with the trauma and anxiety she experiences due to bullying. To better manage her mental health, Amaranthia began taking online courses until she entered high school and could become a full-time student at VLACS. She recalls how taking courses in a virtual environment gave her the freedom to focus on relieving her generalized anxiety disorder through medical treatment as well as through art therapy.
At VLACS, Amaranthia took several art courses that allowed her to strengthen her skills in different artistic areas. To elevate her work, she approached one of her VLACS instructors about the possibility of customizing her course work around her passion for art. As the first VLACS student to personalize course content, she was able to execute her artistic concepts while exploring different ways she could incorporate her talents into an area of study. Through her experience, she was also able to search and apply to colleges that would pave the way towards a future career in art.
One of the projects Amaranthia worked on throughout high school was “Emo Bunny: Anxiety Monster,” a comic that illustrates the life of Sarah, also known as Emo Bunny, a young model struggling with a severe anxiety disorder. When Sarah becomes anxious, the “anxiety monster” is awaken and builds until it consumes her to the point of a panic attack. Sarah’s cat, Serenity, can see the monster, so when it starts to come out, she scares the monster away and comforts Sarah. Amaranthia created Sarah’s character to depict what it feels like to have anxiety, and how pets can provide emotional support to lessen those effects.
“I hope that I create more empathy and more understanding about what it is to have that kind of illness and what we have to deal with constantly,” explained Amaranthia.
With feedback and support from her instructors, Amaranthia submitted "Emo Bunny: Anxiety Monster" to the NH Scholastic Art & Writing Regional Competition 2018 and won the Gold Key! “This was the first time that I ever did something that was talking about a serious problem that’s going on with people, especially in my generation, and to see that it was understood and to see that I got the regional award was amazing,” Amaranthia said. To be recognized for her work, she recalled, helped encourage her to continue to work on this project and share her story.
Amaranthia also attributes her time at VLACS to her preparedness for college. Receiving an online education taught her how to manage her time efficiently so that she could attend more local art classes and create more pieces to submit to art shows. “By the time I graduated from VLACS, I definitely felt like I was ready to go to college especially doing it online because you have to learn how to be independent, you have to manage your own schedule, and you have to know when to communicate with your teachers,“ she said. In January 2020, Amaranthia is going to The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) to pursue her passion by studying sequential art!
Amaranthia represents the many other students that take advantage of the flexible learning approach to education at VLACS so that they can focus on and improve their mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis, seek help now. There is a 24-hour crisis center you can reach at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting MHA to 741741. For additional resources, visit https://www.mhanational.org/.