Theatre/Storytelling (Catherine Heinemeyer)
‘Things As They Are’ (www.thingsastheyare.co.uk), brings together a network of young artists using the arts to open up creative conversations about the root causes of the apparent crisis in adolescent mental health. It is a participatory network that facilitates conversation and develops artistic practice between young artists aged 14-25 who are ‘experts by experience’ in mental ill health. Based at York St John University, the network will conduct collaborative arts-based research over two years, to develop and share understandings of the apparent crisis in youth wellbeing, and creative, impactful ways of communicating these artistically.
Current public debates suggest an increasing prevalence of youth mental ill health, connected to multiple stress factors (e.g. academic pressure, economic precarity, consumerism, changing family structures, social media, the global environment of frequent political and ecological shocks). A frequent prescription is that individual young people (denigrated as ‘snowflakes’) should develop greater resilience to these. Such discourse largely neglects the complex interactions between contextual factors; nor is it informed by an empathetic understanding of how they condition the lived experiences of young people themselves.
This project, therefore, considers widespread youth distress not as a pathological response to individual stressors, but, in critical psychologist Mary Boyle’s words (2011:35), as a ‘meaningful and intelligible’ collective response to the contemporary adolescent experience.
As our pilot mini-festival of ‘art in strange times’ and short video exemplify, we wish to make audible what this collective response is communicating – through the emotionally engaged, multi-layered, oblique channel enabled by the arts. If it were a social movement, what would be its demands? A platform for this perspective in public and professional discourse is a prerequisite for any social changes which might create a healthier growing environment for young people.
View this Youtube video for more information about Things As They Are.