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By Marissa Ciampi
August 02, 2017

The Big Anxiety Festival

This festival aims to transform how people think about Australia's most common mental health condition.
By Marissa Ciampi
August 02, 2017

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, so innovative new event The Big Anxiety Festival should be well-attended. Launching in Sydney from September 20 through November 11, the new festival is an initiative developed by UNSW and the Black Dog Institute, along with over 25 partners across Greater Sydney. Bringing together artists, scientists, technologists and thinkers, the two-month festival aims to use art as a means to transform the way people think about and deal with mental health.

The inaugural festival will present over 60 events across Sydney with hubs located at Circular Quay's Customs House, Riverside Theatre in Parramatta and UNSW, with five major themes on focus — awkward conversations, lived experiences, the 'NeurodiverseCity', mood experiments and power, politics and institutions. The immersive exhibitions will include the world's highest resolution 3D cinema, international art shows, theatrical performances, contemporary dance, interactive media events and public forums for all ages.

A highlight of the program includes a design competition, during which students will build 'relaxation pods' that they feel encourage strong mental health. The pods will be designed in collaboration with specialist architects and be exhibited during the festival. Participation will also contribute to mental health research, with Black Dog Institute measuring the social and health benefits throughout the festival events.

According to the ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007, anxiety is the prominent mental health condition in Australia, with one in four people experiencing anxiety at some point. Add to that, 65 percent of Australians with a mental health problem don't seek help according to the NSW Mental Health Commission. The Big Anxiety Festival hopes to change all that by creating meaningful interactions that expand awareness, support neurodiversity and promote mental health.

The festival will run from September 20 to November 11, with the full program available here. The majority of events are free and wheelchair accessible, with select events Auslan interpreted, audio described, and with tactile tours.

Image: Nick Cubbin.

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