The Big Anxiety Festival brings together creative thinkers – including artists, scientists, health and community workers, and people with lived experience — to re-imagine mental health care for the 21st century.

“Breaking with the traditional model of a contemporary arts festival, which favours new and different themes for each iteration, The Big Anxiety fosters integrated programming and themes that continue to evolve from one festival to another, and continuity of research and practice, maintaining relationships with artists and communities over time.” says Festival Director Professor Jill Bennett, who is also a Lead Investigator at the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute.

The recent Big Anxiety festivals in Brisbane and Southern Queensland were the outcome of an ongoing partnership with Metro South Health, along with various community groups, focusing on support for trauma and suicidality – with a dedicated day on ageing and wellbeing at QUT. 

Festivals like The Big Anxiety play an important role in reducing stigma and creating honest conversations around sensitive subjects like mental health. In Australia, it is generally estimated that approximately 65% of people with mental health concerns do not seek help. This is proportion is higher worldwide, with The World Health Organisation suggesting that up to 80% of people with mental health issues not seeking help.

Professor Bennett says the continued need for a creative and cultural approach to mental health has never been greater. 

“This is a communications and engagement challenge that requires innovative people-focused, design thinking — and solutions that go beyond the narrow realm of clinical practice or ‘awareness raising’. We need creative, trauma-informed ways to connect with people facing challenges — often linked to catastrophic events — within their communities. This means working together, combining insights and expertise from lived experience, arts, science, health and community practice”. 

For more information about The Big Anxiety, including information about the upcoming Melbourne and Regional Victoria festivals, go to: