The Big Anxiety Festival | Mental health and Arts

How do we cultivate empathy in place of stigma, fear and discrimination? Asks ‘The Big Anxiety Festival’ – the world’s largest mental health and arts event.

On during Mental Health Month (October) through to 9 November, with the aim of encouraging Australians with mental health problems not seeking help – to reach out, the festival drives conversation towards a better understanding of these issues and the prevention of suicide by tapping community consciousness through creativity within the arts.

Jason Mailing, The Empathy Clinic Project. Courtesy the artist and The Big Anxiety Festival, Sydney

Professor Jill Bennett, Artistic Director of the Festival says the festival ‘explores 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.’

‘The Big Anxiety Festival’ culminates in a diverse program of sound installation, visual art, discussion, film, radio podcasts, multi-media, performance, poetry, song and virtual reality across 25 Sydney venues hosting nine exhibitions, 62 projects and eight Ambassadors.

Eugenie Lee, Breakout My Pelvic Sorcery, 2019, one on one interactive Virtual Reality performance; duration of performance is variable. Courtesy the artist and The Big Anxiety Festival, Sydney

Festival highlights include ‘The Empathy Clinic’ and its innovative app ‘Course of Empathy’, as well as ‘Awkward Conversations’ where one-to-one conversations tackle the hard to talk about things in experimental formats. ‘The 12 songs of Daughters’ explores gender violence, ‘The Anxiety, Culture And The Future Conference’ brings national and international thinkers together to look at new ways to imagine the future with a focus on how we can generate individual and collective responses to address anxieties, loss of hope.

‘The Big Anxiety Festival’ is an initiative of UNSW in association with Black Dog Institute and Lifeline.