The Big Anxiety Artistic Director Jill Bennett discusses the 2019 program and how the arts are the best means we have for sharing complex experiences. They show us what we don’t know about ourselves and others. They shine light on the relationships and social settings that help or hinder mental health, and they are a means to transform those relationships. Jill talks about the six-week Festival, spanning mental health month (October) uses 62 projects, 25 venues, 9 exhibitions and 8 Ambassadors, across multiple creative platforms including immersive media, visual art, conversation, film, multi-media, performance, poetry, song, and virtual reality to explore various ways for us to connect, hear and be heard; and to make change by breaking down barriers people experience and through building better futures.
Support at Festival Events – Don’t Rush Home!
During the festival you may encounter artworks, experiences or events that give rise to emotions, thoughts or feelings that need to be worked through or discussed. We encourage everyone to take time to review and process these experiences for your own wellbeing.
‘Don’t Rush Home’
‘Don’t Rush Home’ is a concept adapted from First Fortnight, a festival in Ireland that uses arts and culture to challenge mental health stigma while supporting vulnerable people through creative therapies. The idea is that no one should leave the festival feeling upset, distressed, concerned or confused. We hope that visitors have positive and beneficial experiences but we recognise that complex material or feelings need processing – and very often an experience is enhanced by discussion.
Autism and Neurodiversity: language conventions
The Big Anxiety respects individual preferences for either ‘identity first’ language (eg. “I am an autistic artist/person”) or ‘person first’ language (“I am an artist/person with autism”).
We actively endorse the neurodiversity movement and the view that neurological difference reflects natural variation variation rather than deficit. As such we follow the lead of participating artists who use identity first language in relation to autism as a means of affirming and validating autistic experience. This position is outlined in the following articles:
However, with regard to mental health, we generally use person-first language and avoid the use of language that identifies a person with an illness, disorder or condition.
- Download our 12 Points About Anxiety [PDF] written by Professor Jill Bennett
- Take the Black Dog Institute Anxiety Self Test
- “Getting Help” including clinics and self help tools visit Black Dog Institute website
Academic Articles on The Big Anxiety
Psychosocial aesthetics and the art of lived experience by Jill Bennett, Lynn Froggett, Lizzie Muller in Journal of Psychosocial Studies • vol 12 • nos 1-2 • 185–201.
This article identifies the distinctive nature of arts-based psychosocial enquiry and practice in a public mental health context, focusing on two projects delivered as part of The Big Anxiety festival, in Sydney, Australia in 2017: ‘Awkward Conversations’, in which one-to-one conversations about anxiety and mental health were offered in experimental aesthetic formats; and ‘Parragirls Past, Present’, a reparative project, culminating in an immersive film production that explored the enduring effects of institutional abuse and trauma and the ways in which traumatic experiences can be refigured to transform their emotional resonance and meaning. Bringing an arts-based enquiry into lived experience into dialogue with psychosocial theory, this article examines the transformative potential of aesthetic transactions and facilitating environments, specifically with regard to understanding the imbrication of lived experience and social settings.
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Art and Anxiety
The Anxiety Issue of Artlink (2017)
On Art and Anxiety: ‘We Are All Anxious Now’ Tate [Issue 39: Spring 2017]
Conversations about Suicide
Conversations Matter [Online]
Useful websites and phone numbers
- Black Dog Institute
Fact sheets for consumers, families and careers mental illness. Anonymous validated screening tools for identifying depression and bipolar disorder.
An anonymous, confidential online support program shown in research trials to reduce the symptoms of moderate depression over 8 weeks of use; the tool tracks recovery and response to treatment as well as providing self-directed interventions.
1800 187 263
Factsheets on illnesses and treatments as well as a phone line for advice on local support groups and facilities.
- Man Therapy
For men wanting to check out their mental health and get advice on getting help.
- Mind Health Connect
Information and support for people with mental illnesses, their families and friends.
13 11 14
24-hour telephone counselling, information and referral service.
- Mensline Australia
1300 789 978
24-hour support for men dealing with family and relationship problems.
- Beyond Blue
1300 224 636
Information on depression, anxiety and related disorders, available treatments and where to get help.
- Carers Australia
1800 242 636
Family carer support and counselling.
- Relationships Australia
1300 364 277
Relationship support and counselling service for individuals, families and communities.
- Suicide Call Back service
1300 659 467
24-hour telephone counselling service for those at risk of suicide, carers of someone who is suicidal and those bereaved by suicide.
- Reach Out
Online youth mental health service. Expert generated mobile-friendly site and forums.
- Bite Back
BITE BACK developed by the Black Dog Institute is an online space for young people which promotes resilience.
- Kids Helpline
1800 551 800