The Big Anxiety

The Big Anxiety Festival runs from 27 September to the 9 November and seeks to cultivate empathy in place of stigma, fear and discrimination and supporting mental health and suicide prevention. The world’s largest mental health and arts festival is designed to embrace diverse experiences across the vast spectrum of mental health by focusing on one central challenge; how do we cultivate empathy in place of stigma, fear and discrimination?

With 65% of Australians having a mental health problem failing to seek help, The Big Anxiety Festival’s national and cultural importance is significant in both creating discussions around Empathy and Stigma; Care and Healing; and Suicide Prevention while providing innovative, engaging and practical tools to encourage Australians to seek help.

Working with partners such as Lifeline and The Black Dog Institute, the 2019 program has been curated to find new and groundbreaking ways of reaching and engaging people of all ages, abilities, cultural backgrounds and beliefs to promote important discussions around suicide and mental health to improve our capacity to take care of ourselves and others.

Professor Jill Bennett, Artistic Director of the Festival said, “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.”

“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,” she said.

Whats on the program?

This Sounds Like Science
Mental health researchers Dr Sandra Garrido and Professor Katherine Boydell explore the topic of Music, Feeling and Emotion in a free interactive session that will allow participants to experience the profound impact of music on the way we feel. Presented by Inspiring Australia at City Recital Hall on Tuesday 8 October from 12.30 – 1.30 pm.

The Empathy Clinic
Combining art and science to promote empathy and reduce stigma, The Empathy Clinic and its innovative app Course of Empathy explores perspective shifting as a pre-condition of empathy through a combination of virtual reality and encouraging self-reflection through
a range of follow-up tools and resources.

Awkward Conversations
Awkward Conversations offers a series of one-to-one conversations in experimental formats, tackling anxieties, habits and hard-to-talk-about subjects like mental health.

The S Word
The S Word is a free special event held on World Mental Health Day 10 October at Tallawoladah Lawn (outside MCA) that will present Lifeline’s crisis support team hosting one-to-one, informal conversations in addressing anything people want to ask about suicide and mental distress.

The Edge of The Present
The Edge of The Present is an imaginative use of technology in suicide prevention melds art with science to create an immersive VR environment that literally cultivates the capacity for
future thinking and is inspired by suicide survivors and neuropsychological research.

The Visit
The Visit, part of the fEEL Lab, uses technology creatively through an intimate interactive engagement to promote understanding of the lived experience of dementia.

These Walls Could Talk
Festival Ambassador and poet, Omar Sakr, Artist Cameron Cripps-Kennedy and students of Bradfield College stage poetic conversations across the external walls of buildings in St Leonards in These Walls Could Talk to bring conversations about mental health into the public realm, reflecting on the possibilities for creating living and working environments conducive to better mental health.

The Language of Madness – The Big Anxiety Prize
Acclaimed British novelist and former mental health nurse, Nathan Filer will argue in The Language of Madness – The Big Anxiety Prize that it is time to re-imagine care, rethink mental health labels and anti-stigma campaigns. The Big Anxiety Prize is awarded to a creative thinker advancing the discussion of mental health.

Uti Kulintjaku (UK) Initiative
Uti Kulintjaku (UK) Initiative is part of The Empathy Clinic and is an innovative, Aboriginal-led mental health literacy project providing cultural resources to support mental health in remote communities. The UK initiative works at the interface of knowledge systems and languages to better understand mental health.

The 12 songs of Daughters
Drawing on real-life stories, The 12 songs of Daughters are emblematic of a global crisis that affects one in three women in their lifetime by following a powerful journey tracing the effects of gender violence to evoke the strength and tragedy of women and girls lost to

The Anxiety, Culture And The Future Conference
The Anxiety, Culture And The Future Conference will bring together international and national thinkers over three days to explore new ways to imagine the future through workshops and presentations that focus on the practical question of how we generate individual and collective responses to address anxieties, loss of hope and the general failure of future thinking. The conference is open to everyone.

Winner of the Best New Event at the Australian Event Awards 2018, The Big Anxiety Festival is a world leading initiative of UNSW Sydney in association with the Black Dog Institute with more than 25 partnerships across mental health and community organisations including remote communities as well as leading arts and community venues. Browse the full program