Loneliness is real and it affects people right across the country – in fact a 2016 Lifeline survey found 60% of Australians often feel lonely. While loneliness for some is related to physical distance from people they can relate to, for many it’s the fact that they’re surrounded by people but feel a lack of connection and social support. The good news is there are ways of keeping loneliness and social isolation at bay for ourselves and others in our community.
The power of conversation
Connecting with people we care about is a simple way to combat loneliness and the added bonus is, it’s good for our mental health. Strong and caring connections with friends and family also provide a vital safety net that helps us cope with life’s ups and downs. That’s why Brainstorm Productions is an official school partner with national suicide prevention charity R U OK?
Their message is simple – the acts of investing more time in the people around us and asking anyone doing it tough, “are you ok?” can make a big difference. It’s a message we’re never too young to learn.
Conversations can change lives and they need to happen every day of the year. That’s why R U OK? launched the One Million Challenge with the aim of inspiring a million conversations and connections. They’re doing this with the help of a quirky question mark character Quentin who’s travelling right across Australia in lead up to their national day of action, R U OK?Day (Thursday, 14 September 2017)
At every stop on his journey Quentin issues challenges to get people connecting and starting conversations with their loved ones – like get a cup of tea with a neighbour or send a card to your mum. Brainstorm Productions recently joined the challenge and helped Quentin reach even more Australians.
Starting conversations through theatre in education
Most of Brainstorm Productions’ school shows address the need to reach out to each other, and start a conversation. Our primary school productions and high school productions show characters struggling, and demonstrate what happens when someone intervenes and starts a conversation that addresses the challenge in a positive way.
Brainstorm’s high school production Wired addresses this theme directly. Two adolescents feel their lives are spiralling out of control – one into stress and overload, and the other into depression. When the characters’ lives collide, they are forced to change course. The audience has the opportunity to see the characters play out an alternative path, which involves communication and connection.
Brainstorm’s primary school production Being Brave introduces students to communication skills, and strategies for building resilience.
Fly is a young boy whose parents have separated. He misses his dad desperately and tries to be brave by keeping his emotions ‘bottled up’. Isha has been forced to come to a new country and Tim has to stand up and seek help when he is being bullied. Mikalia has to give up the rigors of ballet dancing and find a new dream and Celia comes to terms with loss in her family. By using effective communication strategies, and connecting with others, the characters move through their struggles.
Why theatre in education helps build bridges
Watching theatre in education such as Wired and Being Brave is an effective way for young audiences to witness and understand the power of connection, communication and conversation. The stories help young audiences understand how to pick the right moment to approach someone who is struggling, and the best way to make a connection. School shows such as Wired and Being Brave help students understand the nuances and emotional challenges people face and the power of listening to someone talk about their struggles. These school shows present options for seeking help from professionals and family members, and the importance of checking in with your friend to ensure they have sought help.
Theatre in education and R U OK?’s initiatives are helping young people start life-conversations by building bridges and connections, that will support them in to adulthood.