Albury students shine spotlight on mental health at 2017 Dramatic Minds Festival

CENTRE STAGE: Students from James Fallon High School presented a moving play about self-harm, what triggers it and the road to recovery.
CENTRE STAGE: Students from James Fallon High School presented a moving play about self-harm, what triggers it and the road to recovery.

MESSAGES de-stigmatising concepts in mental health were brought to life on stage at the Dramatic Minds festival last week.

Students from James Fallon, Murray High, Trinity Anglican College and Albury High School took to the stage at the Butter Factory Theatre on Thursday to explore a variety of different topics in youth mental health.

Topics such as self-harm, men's health, loneliness and depression, positive psychology and situational stress came under the spotlight in six different performances.

Guided by the theme ‘Change Your Thoughts, Change the World', students worked with local mental health professionals to develop their scripts.

Event organiser Carolyn Enshaw said the cast of 47 had done a tremendous job bringing their chosen issues into the light.

“This is the sixth year of Dramatic Minds, it's a chance for young people to explore some really difficult topics around mental health and mental illness,” she said.

“A good way of exploring those issues is through drama.

"We've had some really great responses and plays, and some good feedback about the program as well.”

Students from each school were able to work with mental health clinicians on three occasions to help develop their scripts.

Mrs Enshaw said the students had continued to push the envelope in terms of the subject they research and present on stage.

“It's always surprising, the topics they choose to explore and what they come up with in the finished project is just awesome,” she said.

"The kids do some amazing research.

“We have mental health clinicians that go into the schools three times – the first time is just to give an overview of mental health, the second is to help the students pick out a topic and the third is to tighten up the topic they select.

“I see that as such an important component of what the Dramatic Minds festival is all about.

“It takes the clinicians out of that formal environment and brings them into young people's own space.

“It's not as daunting being able to sit in a more relaxed environment and ask lots of different questions.

“Part of that is really communicating with them about service pathways, how you can get in to us when you start to notice things aren't going right for you.”

Dramatic Minds is run by Albury-Wodonga Health.

The festival was highly commended at the inaugural Don Ritchie Awards for Suicide Prevention back in 2013.

It is centred on the idea that utilising drama and the arts can facilitate authentic discussions and awareness among young people about the numerous issues associated with youth mental health.