“RAISING AWARENESS IS NOT ENOUGH. INFORMATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT ENOUGH. WE NEED NEW WAYS OF THINKING, IMAGINING, FEELING AND ACTING—AND RESOURCES THAT ARE BOTH PRACTICAL AND INSPIRING,” SAYS PROFESSOR BENNETT.
THE BIG ANXIETY FESTIVAL
The Big Anxiety is the biggest mental health and arts festival in the world—a cultural platform for direct engagement with mental health that brings together artists, scientists and communities to question and re-imagine the state of mental health in the 21st century. Embracing diverse experiences across the vast spectrum of mental health, the festival examines what makes us anxious as individuals and social groups, from fears about the future, concerns about ourselves, other people and belonging, to the question of how people are cared for. It also closes the knowledge to practice gap, developing and testing tools in partnership with communities. The festival is the brainchild of its Artistic Director, ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, Professor Jill Bennett. Founded in 2017 at The University of New South Wales (UNSW), the festival will move to Melbourne in 2022 with RMIT partnering with UNSW and others across the cultural, education and health sectors. Professor Bennett says that the arts and communications disciplines are the key to reaching the estimated 65 per cent of Australians with mental health concerns who do not access help. There is a growing body of evidence that art has powerful impacts on mental health. Multimedia and virtual reality tools developed through The Big Anxiety have proved to be effective in areas including suicide prevention and trauma support. Professor Bennett says that the success of the festival shows that arts are the best means we have for sharing complex experience, illuminating what we don’t know about ourselves and others. By shining light on the relationships and social settings that help or hinder mental health, The Big Anxiety is a practical means to renew those relationships.
Edge of the Present, from The Big Anxiety 2019 (VR environment for mood improvement/suicide prevention). Credit: Jessica Maurer
Edge of the Present, from The Big Anxiety 2019 (VR environment for mood improvement/suicide prevention). Credit: Jessica Maurer.
IMPROVING HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
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