MELBOURNE NEWS

Culture and heritage

Making space in the arts for people with complex mental health

17 May 2024

See mental health in a shining new light as diverse Melbourne artists with lived experience take on comedy, theatre, cabaret and music.

Schizy Inc is a world-leading Australian arts organisation run by, and for, people with lived experience of complex mental health such as schizophrenia, bipolar and depression.

We awarded Schizy Inc’s Mojo Festival of Arts the inaugural Melbourne Award for Access and Inclusion in recognition of the program’s exceptional community impact.

Schizy Inc team members on stage at the Melbourne Awards

The Schizy Inc team is dedicated to empowering artists and delivering productions that are accessible, complex-trauma aware and a whole lot of fun.

“Schizy Inc builds the kind of spaces that make you proud to have survived your past. You deserve respect for your existence,” said Schizy Inc founder Heidi Everett.

“We build real relationships with local arts organisations, communities and venues. Schizy Inc advocates for access and inclusion around complex mental health and neurodivergence in a way the mental health system cannot.”

A group of contemporary dancers
Hannah Gabrielle Friebel and Grace Dance Company

Heidi spent many years in the psychiatric system rehabilitation groups, experiencing first-hand the need for gathering spaces that respected and empowered creative people – so she launched Schizy Inc in 2008.

She coined the term ‘schizy’ to take the stigma and sting out of the medical term ‘schizophrenia’ by using a hallmark of Australian slang – adding a ‘y’ to everything to convey mateship and the underdog spirit.

“Schizy Inc is a community of people with lived experience of complex mental health,” Heidi said.

“We understand the realities around complex trauma so artists take care not to include triggering themes in their work. We want you to have fun and go home feeling good and optimistic.”

A person performing at a microphone
Singer Sarah Dwyer

Some of the earliest Schizy Inc events were a ‘Hot Dog Parade’ where companion dogs strutted in handmade fashions, and live music jams that began in North Melbourne and went international.

Over the years, Schizy Inc has gone from strength to strength, managed by a committee of lived experience artist advocates, with support from governance mentors and arts sector allies.

A group of people looking at an art exhibition

The annual program has grown to embrace illustration, film, stand-up comedy, writing, nature-based creativity, visual arts, spoken word and more, alongside personal and community empowerment.

The team also opened the SiDAS studio, which is located at Abbotsford Convent and led by people with lived experience of mental health disability.

Heidi now has her sights set on a ‘healing farm’ on a regional property.

To learn more about Schizy Inc, visit schizy.org

About the Melbourne Awards 

The Melbourne Awards provide an opportunity for the City of Melbourne to celebrate and thank the people making a difference in our city — from those established initiatives that continue to inspire us, to fresh new ideas that propel us forward.

Applications for the next round of the awards are open until 21 June. For more information, visit Melbourne Awards

Three people with balloons and bunches of flowers
Schizy Inc team members at the Melbourne Awards

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