Are you constantly feeling stressed, experiencing headaches, depression and sleepless nights. These are becoming a common occurrence for many of us. For some, it's just the daily grind, others it could be a chemical imbalance, a medical condition, trauma or just the unknown. Whatever the reason, you might benefit from going to The Big Anxiety Festival running from 20 September until the 11 November.
The Big Anxiety Festival is the biggest mental health and arts festival in the world. Here you will explore and reimagine the state of mental health in the 21st century with an elite group of leading national and international artists, scientists, technology experts and thinkers. Be prepared to let the experts transform the way you think and cope with mental health.
There will be talks, innovative experiences that include state-of-the-art immersive environments such as Apocalypse Anonymous', an immersive installation exploring some of the ways that we as a species are emotionally, physically and spiritually preparing for potential human extinction.
Apocalypse Anonymous - artists Tiyan Baker and Loren Kronemyer artwork 'Doomsday Island' The Big Anxiety Festival
The Festival will also house the world's highest resolution 3D cinema, international art exhibitions, theatre and performance, contemporary dance, interactive media events and public forums for the entire family.
The Big Anxiety Festival vision is to create opportunities for meaningful encounters that increase curiosity and empathy, decrease stigma, support neuro diversity and promote psychological and emotional well-being in our society.
The Festival revolves around five major themes:
Awkward Conversations explores the way we communicate, especially when it comes to discussing difficult subjects like suicide and anxiety.
Lived Experiences examines the nitty gritty of life like trauma, loss, recovery and hope through the lens of creativity and vulnerability.
NeurodiverseCity celebrates the diversity of the mind by asking why difference prompts anxiety and stigmatization.
Power, Politics and Institutions investigates the increasing struggle to maintain mental health in our fast-paced, hyper-connected society and the hand that institutions play in perpetuating illness.
Mood Experiments uncovers the way our environment can drastically influence the way we experience the world.
Executive & Artistic Director of the Festival, Professor Jill Bennett (UNSW) says "There is resounding evidence that the arts can contribute to our mental well-being in really substantial ways, far beyond simply promoting awareness. We want to transform the way people think, feel and connect".
A first for an arts festival, The Big Anxiety Festival will contribute to real-life mental health research, with researchers at Black Dog Institute measuring the social and health benefits for participants. "The research underpinnings make this event a world-first, establishing an evidence base for the impact of communities engaging together around mental health issues," says Prof Katherine Boydell, the festival's Mental Health Lead from Black Dog Institute.
To kick start the announcement of NSW's first The Big Anxiety Festival, the state's Minister for Mental Health, Tanya Davies, has sponsored a design competition to build 'relaxation pods' which will be exhibited at Festival hubs.
Relaxation Pod - By Floatguru - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22437716
The entries, developed by school students in collaboration with specialist architects, include state-of-the-art designs with a focus on good mental health. Two winning entries will be selected to be built.
The full program can be accessed via the website – www.thebiganxiety.org. Most of the Festival events are free, relaxed and wheelchair accessible. Selected events will also be Auslan interpreted, audio described, and with tactile tours.
The Big Anxiety Festival is an initiative of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in association with the Black Dog Institute and over 25 partners across Greater Sydney. The principal Festival partner is The Bridging Hope Charity Foundation; Major partners and supporters include Australian Government, Department of Communication and the Arts: Catalyst - Arts and Culture Fund; The Neilson Foundation; Australia Council for the Arts; City Of Sydney; Mental Health Commission of NSW and the NSW Government.