How can we use AI safely to Encourage Creative Expression and Healing for our Young People?
There's been a lot more hype and conversation recently on the subject of artificial intelligence when it comes to our mental health, exacerbating mental health disorders, teenagers, adolescent mental health, and - of course - education.
It seems as though every human and their dog has an opinion on the matter, and most of them are based around:
Concerns for mental health [especially children's well being]
Negatively affecting mental health disorders and mental health conditions
Targeting audiences on social media and websites
Teenagers and educational achievement
These are all valid concerns, of course, but the more I think about it: the less sense it makes.
Why? Because: attitude reflects leadership.
In other words, a team is only as strong as its captain... and a classroom or learning environment is only as productive as its educational framework.
If students aren't feeling inspired to learn, create, or think critically, [especially if they're struggling with anxiety, depression, ADHD, or another type of mental health disorder]: then it only makes sense for us to feel intimidated by, or fearful of the implications that AI might have in the classroom.
But - as they say - the only constant in life is change.
So - instead of fighting against the tech world [and we are living in the age of technology here!] - I feel like there's so many beautiful ways to embrace AI - especially when it comes to the creative expression, education and empowerment of young people who are potentially struggling with mental health.
[And seriously: who isn't struggling from some kind of anxiety disorder or experiencing emotional difficulties or mental health trauma after the past few years?]
So let's break this down:
Kai - and other similar wellness apps
Education and Empowerment
The all-encompassing theme of: communication
Let's Discuss Kai First:
I first discovered the concept of Kai while researching this article actually, and I'm not going to lie. It made me laugh.
A little backstory here: I've been living in the United States for the past eight years [my mother is from Pennsylvania, and I have extended family across the country], but I was originally born in New Zealand, and my father was from Fiji. In other words, I've spent much of my life around Pasifika people, Indian and Asian cultures, and - of course - typical Kiwis.
The word "kai" in Maori language [indigenous to New Zealand] means food, but:
In Hawaiian, kai refers to the sea.
In Japanese, kai means shell.
In Europe, Kai is a short form of the name Kaimbe, meaning “warrior.”
In Welsh, Scandinavian, and Greek history, Kai means "keeper of the keys; earth."
For me personally; Kai is my brothers name.
However: in the year 2023: Kai is also the name of a new AI companion tool, specifically made for teenagers, that is designed to "help you feel happier, calmer and become the best version of yourself".
Ain't that something. For the past three years: our young people have been forced to turn to social media sites like Instagram and TikTok, as well as online communication tools like WhatsApp and SnapChat as ways to connect and communicate... to the point that we've now created a generation of young people who don't know how to communicate and connect in person. Eye contact feels intimidating, and hearing a person's voice [or even trying to find the verbal vocabulary to express oneself] ends up feeling confrontational or just plain scary.
So: AI has come to the rescue. Conversations conducted 100% via messenger, Discord, WhatsApp or Telegram with a virtual entity that is designed to help teens communicate and express themselves safely as they discuss their own plethora of mental health conditions, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, anorexia, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and even substance use.
From what I have garnered, the wellness companion app almost gamifies self-care and communication, whilst supporting a young person's abilities to begin exploring in-person connection and conversation.
It's a cool concept, I'm not gonna lie. Especially for Gen Z. But: I totally understand how scary this wellness app might be for parents, educators and youth-workers, as we try to maintain some semblance of safety when it comes to a young person's mental health.
Which leads me to my own experiments around education and empowerment as it relates to AI, and how we can best use it productively and safely.
First, let's reiterate the fact that young people struggle in 2023 struggle with communication - especially when it comes to their parents, teachers and other people in positions of power. Gen Z also struggle with the common communication tools that their parents, teachers and typical youth-workers tend to use.
However, one of the things I've noticed over the past 17years that I've been teaching [keeping in mind that I am also a Millennial, and therefore have fallen victim a couple of times to my own struggles with communication styles] is this:
When I first began my business as a vocal instructor: my students found that - whilst working with me on their voice - they began to uncover aspects of their personal and emotional trauma that were impacting on their voice... therefore, the more we sang, the more we uncovered. The more we uncovered, the easier it was for them to start to heal.
When I ventured into tertiary education, I found a lot of my music students were lacking confidence when it came to their academic assignments. The mere thought of writing an essay was overwhelming and stressful, which led to feelings of inadequacy, self doubt, and even questioning their own intellect. The solution? This was a music program, after all, so - instead of requesting an essay on the history of hip-hop, we asked our students to write their own rap about the history of the genre. Suddenly, because we incorporated that creative element, students were handing in - and presenting - research papers that encompassed all of the elements of the subject they were being asked to study, and the caliber of their language was incredible.
Every single time I've worked with an empowerment through songwriting client, it's been an honor to see how they've been able to tap into parts of their emotional selves in ways that normal conversation isn't as easily able to access.
Again: Gen Z is built different. It's often difficult for them to articulate their emotions, ideas, and struggles [especially if their mental health conditions include anxiety, depression, or ADHD] in normal conversation, but when they're given creative tools like music: something shifts.
Suddenly, the teenagers are writing songs to their anxiety disorders. They're personifying depression as a character in their life story, that they can now write break-up letters to. They're now able to express their emotions under the guise of "creative license", which - when given the right coaching - can help them to identify, understand, process and, eventually, overcome whatever negative emotions they're working through.
But - of course - the question remains:
How can we use AI safely to Encourage Creative Expression and Healing for our Young People?
After all, this article is all about artificial intelligence and raising healthy teenagers.
Quite simply, it's boils down to this:
Your teenagers anxiety, stress and depression are difficult and overwhelming topics to discuss
Your teenager needs effective methods that feel safe when it comes to communicating about their anxiety, depression and stress
AI tools [like ChatGPT] combined with creative tools [like music] can be HUGELY instrumental when it comes to them expressing themselves, and eventually overcoming these disorders and conditions.
Let's break it down a little bit, and talk about a completely fictional 16year old by the name of Kelly.
Kelly has been struggling for a long while now, but they're hopeful that they can overcome it. While they don't have any specific mental health disorders: they have moments of intense anxiety, stress, and - from time to time - find themselves wondering if they have an eating disorder, as they'll often go for more than a day without food.
Last weekend, Kelly had a fight with their mother after coming home with a C in math, and they're feeling angry, stupid, and embarrassed. Kelly does, however, know that these feelings will pass, and things will get better.
So, we turn to AI for help.
What we input:
Write a chorus about having a fight with my mother after coming home with a C in math. I feel angry and embarrassed, but I know that this will pass, and things will get better.
What AI comes back with:
Fightin' with my mom, feelin' so low
Came home with a C, don't know where to go
Angry and embarrassed, but I won't let it break me
I'll rise above it, and things will eventually get better, you'll see.
Now, there is every likelihood that Kelly didn't even know where to begin when it came to communicating about where their head was at, before we started this conversation. However, with the help of AI, Kelly is now able to look at this not-so-randomly generated chorus, and have a foundation to start exploring with.
This is when creativity starts to take hold.
With the right coaching [and by that, I specifically mean: having a coach who focuses on positive mental health, and can help teenagers identify positive potential outcomes from seemingly stressful, unhealthy, or overwhelming situations], Kelly can now take that chorus, and use it as a foundation to complete their new song with verses, pre-choruses, and a bridge. Best of all, because they've been given that creative license, Kelly can start to really explore their struggles more authentically, and come up with some powerful affirmations for how they want this song [and this situation] to turn out.
- Teenagers with mental health disorders, struggles, anxiety disorder, stress or overwhelm identify a recent event in their life that annoyed them, as well as one or two emotions that came with said event.
- The young person inputs that brief outline into something like ChatGPT with action of "write a chorus about".
- AI generates said chorus [note: this may take several attempts before it creates something that the adolescent actually likes.
- Teenager then perfects the chorus - perhaps adjusting a word here or there to create something a little more representative of their spoken word.
- Teenager is then able to use that chorus as a solid foundation to write the rest of the song in a way that is authentic, empowering and honest.
"But what if the teenager cheats, and asks AI to write the entire thing?"
I hear you. And that's what a good coach should help them with... because no two teenagers are the same. Some teens are going to be less hesitant to get raw and real straight away [and will therefore rely on AI more heavily], while others will be more comfortable with self-expression, and figuring out ways to work through their anxieties towards positive mental health.
Of course, attitude reflects leadership, so ensuring that the coach or youth-worker that your teenager is working with is someone who walks the walk - and doesn't just talk the talk is important. Someone who understands SnapChat and Discord. Someone who knows about ChatGPT and Reels... and someone who has actively demonstrated their own journey to mental health and wellness through the tools that they teach.
If songwriting and creativity are tools you think your teenager will benefit from in their mental health journey - especially if you've noticed your adolescent is exploring AI, social media platforms and communication tools that you're not particularly familiar with - I'd love to hop on a call to see how I might be able to facilitate and support their mental health journey.
Simply click here to book a free discovery call with me to learn more about how I work, how I can help guide your teenager through their adolescent mental health journey, or even simply whether we'd be a good fit to work together.
The bottom line is this: change is the only constant, and the world is changing rapidly. We want to ensure your teenager grows through these changes... and improves their own mental health one song at a time.
I look forward to speaking with you soon.