What is the number-one social issue for students across Australia? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics CensusAtSchool survey, reducing bullying in schools . Longitudinal studies have consistently found strong links between school bullying and mental health problems with victims at risk of developing depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Similarly, perpetrators of bullying are also at risk of developing depression, anti-social personality and substance use disorders . With a long history, over 30 years, Brainstorm Productions helps more than 350,000 students across Australia each year with anti-bullying, cyber bullying and wellbeing education programs via a range of live in-school theatre productions.
The use of theatre in education can help unite students in a shared experience and is a great springboard for opening up discussion and assisting with change; be it bullying, peer pressure, binge drinking and violence. Research and evaluation have revealed that the ‘overwhelming majority of students demonstrate enjoyment and enthusiasm through watching educational theatre, are receptive and listen attentively, and can correctly identify the educational messages being portrayed’ . In this way, theatre gives strong and emotional lessons to students, whilst being entertaining.
Students also learn in different ways and educational theatre can have a profound effect when a familiar scenario is being played out, with clear solutions and skills, which students can practice in their own lives. This is incredibly important when trying to tackle bullying, not only for the victims but, also, for the bullies themselves who can see and feel how their behaviour is affecting their victim and learn alternative behavioural patterns. In addition, the programs also help students understand how they can intervene safely to support children who are being bullied and not be a bystander and, therefore, an enabler.
Brainstorm Productions programs are developed to reflect the core values of the community and to help address youth mental health needs, as well as integrating school curriculums and the Department of Educations’ Wellbeing Framework for Schools. All programs are developed in collaboration with teachers, counsellors and psychologists; and the head writer also has a University teaching background. The success of the programs hinges not only on presenting award-winning live theatre, but also, providing ongoing support to schools. There is the anti-bullying monthly online articles, Facebook page and teachers resources; including curriculum-linked lessons, interactive activities, original songs and anti-bullying posters.
Here is a sample of the positive responses received from teachers about how Brainstorm Productions assists student mental health and wellbeing:
“In one word: Fabulous!!! Highlights the possible steps students can take to achieve good mental health. Fantastic young, role models! 10/10” – Pittwater High School
“Strong messages about mental health and positive relationships! Relevant! Supports student welfare, social choices, life balance. 10/10” – Swansea High School
“Captivating! Fantastic! Drama is a powerful tool for addressing issues: dangers of making poor decisions online and the consequences for real life – thought provoking! 10/10” – Trinity Catholic College
“Highly recommended! Supports our mental health unit. Performance is linked with self-esteem and cyber smart material. Thanks for a timely and rich performance. These kids now have tools to save lives. 10/10!” – Emmanuel Lutheran School Gawler
“Good messages and info about mental health, cyber bullying, digital reputation and respect. Students highly engaged and responsive. Looking forward to the next performance! 10/10” – Port Macquarie High School
“Highly recommended! Students were drawn into the story and thoroughly enjoyed it. Found it confronting but informative. Supports our mental health curriculum. Thank you!” – Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta
“Appropriately and realistically highlights the adolescent issues and a range of options available to help young people cope. Helped to normalise mental illness, final year pressures, coping mechanisms, welfare and mental health issues. Amazing performers who were punctual, enthusiastic and fantastic as always. 10/10.” – Cranbourne Secondary College
Brainstorm Productions is playing an important and significant role in helping students across the nation as they face many of life’s challenges. To find out more, click here.
 Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics CensusAtSchool – Australia 2013. Available from http://www.abs.gov.au/censusatschool
 Source: The use of Theatre in Education (TIE): A review of the evidence. Prepared by Child Health Promotion Research Centre Edith Cowan University for the Constable Care Child Safety Foundation – March 2012
 Source: Adolescent peer aggression and its association with mental health and substance use in an Australian cohort. Published by Journal of Adolescence 37 (2014) 11-21