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DEERFIELD, Ill – High school students are invited to submit their entries in Walgreens’ 12th Annual Expressions Competition. The topic of mental health has become synonymous with children and the role the COVID-19 pandemic has played in their emotional well-being. One tried-and-true way to help process and work through mental health struggles is through artwork.

Mental Health in Crisis

The U.S. Surgeon General issued a formal advisory in December called “Protecting Youth Mental Health.” Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, pressures such as cyber-bullying, self-esteem, gender identity and body image, social justice, equity, and more have been weighing on the mental health of the nation’s youth and their families. The pandemic has increased the overall impact that these combined issues have had on those suffering from mental health issues.

Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide — and rates have increased over the past decade.

The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating. The future well-being of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation.

Especially in this moment, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variant, we also need to focus on how we can emerge stronger on the other side. This advisory shows us how we can all work together to step up for our children during this dual crisis.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

12th Annual Expressions Competition

The Expressions Competition offers three categories to which high school students can submit their entries:

  • Spoken Word
    • Poetry
    • Short Story
  • Visual Arts
    • Graphic Design
    • Drawing
    • Painting
    • Sculpture
    • Photography
  • Media Arts
    • Video
    • PSA
    • Song/Rap
2019 St. Louis Finalist: Isaiah Shavers – “Willingly Ignorant” – Metro High School – Credit: Walgreens

Through these categories, students can use their creative talents to express their opinions about issues that are affecting their lives and/or the world around them. Entries are now being accepted until March 31, 2022. (Students whose parents/guardians work for Walgreens are not eligible to participate.)

For more information on the competition, or to view other submissions, visit the Expressions Challenge website.

Several prizes, ranging from $200–$2,000, will be awarded to the winning entries in the form of checks.

Each category will have a 1st ($2,000), 2nd ($1,750) and 3rd place ($1,500) winner, for a total of 9 winners within this portion of the competition. The People’s Champ Awards will be given to one person per category. Those with the highest number of votes (per category) will each receive $1,000.

The Teacher Champion Award ($500) will go to four teachers: one from each of the different regions in the country (northeast, midwest, south, and west). These teachers will have played a crucial role in their student’s process of brainstorming, creating and submitting their entries.

One last category, the Heritage Awards, is specific to the cities of Chicago and St. Louis, with two awards for teens ($500) and two awards for teachers ($200).

The Expressions Competition is a valuable resource that helps students to express themselves through various forms of art.

Expressions Competition History

Walgreens’ Expressions Competition began as a response to the AIDS crisis and has been a valuable resource for hundreds of organizations, high school students, teachers and parents since 2009. In fact, this competition has reached close to one million high school students, with award money totaling over $350,000.

Expressions was established “to educate, empower and equip young people and their communities with insights and resources on issues impacting teens,” according to a news release.

“Walgreens created Expressions out of a desire to help young people cope with some of life’s difficulties. Our commitment to improving the health and wellness of the communities we serve includes addressing things that improve our total state of wellbeing. Expressions incentivizes high school students to turn away from negative devices and exercise their creative devices.”

Dr. Kevin Ban, Walgreens Chief Medical Officer

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