OLA – Latin America

Building Resilience to overcome depression and anxiety in young people from the peripheries of Peru, Colombia and Argentina.

Creativity and Mental Health

Project Overview

Depression and anxiety are leading causes of disability worldwide, particularly during adolescence where prevalence rapidly increases. This risk may be even greater where individuals are exposed to multiple stressors such as armed conflict, poverty, social isolation, trauma, displacement and violence. Adolescents and young people in urban environments may be more likely to experience these stress factors. The World Health Organisation has identified reducing adolescent depression and anxiety as a key priority in order to promote sustained economic and social development.

Yet, despite the impact that depression and anxiety can have, many adolescents and young adults do not develop either condition, and up to 50% of young people recover from a single episode within a year. This raises the question of what factors protect and prevent individuals from developing these disorders, and which factors promote recovery.

OLA – Building Resilience is a 5-year research project aiming to identify these resilience factors that are associated with the prevention and recovery of depression and anxiety in young people, in order to inform the development of potential interventions. With four Latin America arts organisations, we use arts-based research methods to better understand youth experience in Argentina, Colombia and Peru.


Creative workshops and laboratories open up discussions with adolescents and young people about their relationships and use of resources.

Artwork also explores attitudes and perceptions about depression and anxiety in young people, in order to reveal individual, social and contextual resilience factors and the significance of different clinical and non-clinical resources in their own recovery from depression and/or anxiety.

The project involves networks of local civil society organisations to assess how communities and services can respond to depression and/or anxiety, and to strengthen resilience.

In September 2023, PPP’s director Paul Heritage delivered a workshop to young people in Lima, Peru, using the Theatre of the Oppressed- Augusto Boal’s methodology.