Imagine a large grass field full of children and families waving different colored flags – giggling, smiling, dancing and laughing. A place of pure playful joy and authentic connection where mental illness and mood disorders lovingly melt away. Were we made for such a joy as this? Here at JOYA, we say a resounding YES! Let’s baseline our starting point:

Statistics on Children with Mental Illness, PTSD and Mood Disorders

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • Approximately 1 in 5 children (ages13-18) currently have or previously had a significantly debilitating mental illness. [1]
  • 1.4% (ages 13-18) currently have PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. [2]
  • 4.7% (ages 13-18) and 3.7% (ages 8-15) currently have a mood disorder (major depressive, dysthmic and/or bipolar), more girls than boys. [3]

Our Response, Yours Too?

  1. We want to see children totally healed from mental illness, trauma and mood disorders.
  2. We want children surrounded by joyful community, safe people who are glad to be with them[4], even in their pain while expecting imminent victory. 
  3. We need people who will protect joy as well as promote play[5] and other skills that build relational joy[6] and better connection.
  4. We want children to have ways to express and effectively work through pain.
  5. We want children to live abundant, thriving, connected and joyful lives!

What are Traditional Solutions?

Some of the traditional therapies for childhood trauma, mental illness and stress are cognitive behavior therapy, play therapy and medication.[7]

Cognitive behavior therapy is reported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as the most effective way to treat children with PTSD[8]. In this therapy the child recalls and talks about the trauma. It aims to reduce fear and other hindering belief systems. 

Play therapy offers a less direct approach to help children process pain. It helps “move traumatic memories and sensations from the nonverbal brain areas to the frontal lobes,” where the child can, “communicate and process adverse issues.”[9] 

Some examples of Play Therapy: [10] [11]

  • Draw Pictures
  • Games
  • Storytelling
  • Puppets
  • Dance and Movement**

Play therapy offers an alternative to cognitive therapy and is especially useful for younger children who have difficulty processing directly[12]. Having another “language” available that has more fluidity in the pain zones of our memories is useful for expressing things that words can’t. That language could be play, art, music, dance or movement.

Dance / Movement Therapy Is a Language of Movement. It yields improvement with[13]

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • PTSD
  • Autism
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Family Conflicts
  • Communication
  • Relationships

The American Dance Therapy Association, established in 1966, defines dance/movement therapy as the, “use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of the individual.”[14] DMT, Dance/Movement Therapy, empowers people to express feelings nonverbally.

Movement activities like expressive storytelling that use gesturing is a great way to express feelings AND build joyful relational skills[15]. Expressive gesturing stimulates both sides of the brain and expressive story telling that involves all of the brain can help train our brains in relational skills[17]. As we grow in joy skills and joyful connection, we become healthier. James Wilder et al. writes in, Joy Starts Here, “Joy helps people discover who they really are, build strong bonds, develop character, resolve traumas, overcome problems and develop the relational skills we call maturity.”

Flagging can be a Type of Dance / Movement Therapy and a Way to Build Joy.

Mona Martin is a joy protector. She teaches dance and flagging to children and adults on inner healing through the vocabulary of motion. Motion through flagging gives our hearts a voice where words are unspoken. Mona explains, “the flag becomes an advocate for you that communicates for you when you are not able to communicate on your own.”[18]

Flagging is a language that enables us to communicate conscious and subconscious feelings[19]. It can help us unlock things that we feel inside that we may not have words for or even consciously know about. As we unlock those things we may feel relief. Try asking yourself a question when you’re not sure what you’re feeling and flag it out. You may notice your body has something to say, and as it says it through motion, that tension is released. 

Flagging is about motion, movement and sometimes playful expression. It is the song of your body, the words of your child’s heart, the dance of your gestures and the story untold. What would you ask your JOYA flag? What is the movement it would reveal?

The color for National Childhood Mental Awareness month is bright green. Purchase a light green flag directly from our store. 

Works Cited

[1] “Any Disorder Among Children,” National Institute for Mental Health. Retrieved 10/21/16 from,

[2] “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Children,” National Institute for Mental Health. Retrieved 10/21/16 from,

[3] “Any Mood Disorder in Children,” National Institute for Mental Health. Retrieved 10/21/16 from,

[4] Wilder, E. James, Khouri, E. M., Coursey, C. M., & Sutton, S. D. (2014) Joy Starts Here. East Peoria, IL:  Shepherd’s House Inc., p.7.

[5] Wilder, p.18.

[6] Wilder, p.247.

[7] “PTSD in children and adolescents,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved 10/19/16 from

[8] Ibid.

[9]  “Play Therapy,” Retrieved 10/17/16 from

[10] Ibid.

[11] U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “PTSD in children and adolescents.”

[12] Ibid.

[13], “Dance / Movement Therapy.”

[14] “General Questions – What is dance/movement therapy?” American Dance Therapy Association. Retrieved 10/17/16 from

[15] Wilder, p.248.

[16] “Gesturing Engages All Four Brain Hemispheres,” Psychology Today. Retrieved 10/17/16 from

[17] Wilder, p.248.

[18] Mona Martin, Christian Dance Academy (Search Facebook, “Christian Dance Academy” or, “Mona Martin”). Interviewed 10/19/2016.

[19]  “Dance / Movement Therapy,” Retrieved 10/16/16 from

Child Mental Health Awareness Month - Annemarie Van Parys - JoyaFlags

About the Author

Annemarie loves interior design and learning new things she can build with her hands. She is an avid entrepreneur and writer living in Redding, CA.