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.

The Long Table

The Long Table is based on a format developed by Lois Weaver (who writes about it in our book, The Big Anxiety: Taking Care of Mental Health in Times of Crisis). Introduced by Lois in our 2017 festival, the Long Table has since been used in The Big Anxiety for lived experience-led discussions of feelings associated with trauma and suicide. We have run the Long Table on suicide as a community collaboration in Warwick, QLD as well as in our Forums.

A Long Table is set up like a dinner table with an ‘etiquette’ formulated by Lois [see HERE]. People participating may choose to sit on the sidelines and listen to the conversation or join the table at any time. There is no pressure to speak or not speak — but guests must come to the table to talk. The aim of this format is to create a non-hierarchical, inclusive space for conversation.

It is not about control or achieving a specific outcome but holding a space of deep listening and respect for others and their opinions and experiences – whether they align with your own or not. Participants speak one at a time, coming to the table to share thoughts with the table — and may join or leave the table at any time. Participants respect the privacy of what is said in the room.

Experiencing strong emotions is natural and healthy. We ask only that you do not hurt yourself, others or the environment –  and ensure respectful communication. Being ‘triggered’ or feeling various degrees of reaction is to be expected when people become conscious of trauma held and emerging from within. Participants are welcome to leave the room if necessary to process their reactions privately, before returning. Trauma-informed counsellors are present and available on request. In accordance with The Big Anxiety’s ‘Don’t rush home’ policy – we encourage anyone with feelings of distress to make contact, share feelings or talk to us before leaving. Participants are encouraged to talk to the host(s) and/or counsellors about support needs.

There is no moderator in a Long Table—and no rules about what is discussed. It is a lived-experienced-led community discussion rather than a clinician-led process. Whilst many people report finding this a warm and supportive environment, we encourage participants to reflect on whether they are in the right frame of mind to listen to stories of pain and distress, and to talk to event hosts in advance if in doubt.

Our trauma-informed approach is inspired by and aligns with principles of peer support and the generational orientation of other consumer-led approaches to discussion of trauma and suicide, such as Alternatives to Suicide and Suicide Narratives by Humane Clinic

Australian Human Rights Institute Associate Rebecca Moran and Scientia Professor Jill Bennett discuss The Long Table in Human Rights Defender, the newsletter from The Australian Human Rights Institute. HERE

2019 Podcast Series

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.

Click here to listen to the Full Podcast Series

Click Here to Download the Transcript of this PODCAST with Professor Jill Bennett

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 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:

Psychology Today
Autistic Advocacy
The Conversation

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.

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.

If you can’t access this, please email


Radio National All in the Mind 


Lancet Psychiatry podcast The Art of Mental Health from Nov 2017 

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]

Edge of the Present features at 1:06 in this 2021 SBS documentary Osher Günsberg: A Matter of Life and Death. Osher investigates how innovative thinking, and new science and technology could help prevent suicide, while examining why suicide rates remain high in Australia and reflecting on his own mental health issues.

fEEL Lab Projects

EmbodiMap Virtual Reality. Immersive interactive experience, 2020/21.

Hard Place / Good Place. Augmented Reality experience, demo, 2021.

The Visit. Immersive interactive VR experience, 2019. Download The Visit VR for Oculus Quest here.

waumananyi: the song on the wind. Immersive experience, 2019. Trailer.

Parragirls Past, Present. Unlocking memories of Institutional care. Immersive experience, 2017. Trailer.

Edge of the Present. Immersive experience, 2019.

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.
  • myCompass
    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.
  • SANE
    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.
  • Lifeline
    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