Opening a Dialogue about Mental Health through Comics and Creative Writing


With the number of students in The Netherlands affected by mental health issues on the rise (van Dinther 2018), it is important to find innovative strategies for discussing and destigmatizing these issues within the university classroom. Opening a dialogue about mental health has been marked as a significant strategy point in the Actieplan Studentenwelzijn 2018 and the World Health Organization’s article on mental health promotion and protection (2018), both of which suggest community-based discussion as effective in understanding mental health issues and promoting general well-being.

While within the study of literature at the Vrije Universiteit the topic of mental health is often addressed through analytical close-readings of works of literature, how mental health relates to everyday stressors affecting students is primed for further elaboration and exploration. Following from the substantial amount of research that has been conducted into how creative writing and drawing can have a positive influence on self-understanding and well-being (Hayes 2017; Folkman 2011; Lawrence 2009; White 2007; Hunt and Sampson 1998), this project aims to implement practice-based approaches to discussions on mental health in the classroom environment. In having students create short stories and comic strips, the project will encourage them to explore their personal experiences with mental health issues—whether their own, those of a friend or family member, or even a literary character—and thereby engender a safe classroom environment where students can feel comfortable discussing these often taboo, difficult, and/or inarticulable experiences in a community of their peers.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. E.L. La Cour

Affiliated with

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Taal, Literatuur en Communicatie


01/06/2019 to 30/06/2020