Aboriginal youths paint their pain in Art From the Heart exhibit

A Halifax clinic specializing in treating pain in Aboriginal youth is using art to help kids to open up and express what they're going through.

Exhibit of 22 pieces of artwork created by Aboriginal children were displayed at IWK on Wednesday

Aboriginal youth from four First Nations communities in the Maritimes were asked to capture their physical and emotional pain with art, in hopes to show what words can't express. 0:48

A Halifax clinic specializing in treating pain in Aboriginal youth is using art to help kids to open up and express what they're going through.  

The Aboriginal Children's Hurt & Healing Initiative aims to improve the the well-being of First Nations children. They have the highest rates of all types of pain-related conditions ranging from dental pain to headaches, said Dr. Margot Latimer, who helped launch the initiative.

The initiative created a workshop with world-renowned Mi'kmaq artist Alan Syliboy to help youth express their pain so clinicians can better understand how to help. Forty-two youths between the ages of 10 and 17 from four different Aboriginal communities in the Maritimes took part.

An exhibit of 22 pieces of art created at the Aboriginal Children's Hurt & Healing Initiative workshop were on display at the IWK on Wednesday. (Kyah Sparks/CBC)

At the workshop, children narrated their stories and used art to share their perception of pain and hurt.

"How are we going to manage their pain if we don't know what their pain sources are?" John Sylliboy, one of the initiative's co-ordinators, said.

"One thing to know is how to diagnose that part, and the other is to make sure we apply proper pain management."

Art From the Heart

On Wednesday, the IWK displayed Art From the Heart, an exhibit of 22 pieces of art created at the workshop. The art expresses the four components of pain: physical, emotional, spiritual and mental.

"It gives them another way for them to share how they're feeling without saying it," Latimer said.

Other stages of the project aim to help children suffering from pain deal with their challenges through conversation sessions, and an app is also being created to shares stories.