James Hendicott: Now, First Fortnight feels more relevant than ever

by James Hendicott

First Fortnight has been a staple of the Dublin culture scene for the last few years; in fact this year, it celebrates its tenth anniversary.

Of course, the festival differs substantially from its normal form this time around, with the action taking place online.

Over the past few days – and the last ten years at around this time – a large team of volunteers at the charity have come together at what’s traditionally one of the hardest times of year, looking to light up our lives with a mix of music, theatre, film, and discussion.

From a wide variety of angles, they examine mental health, and the stigma around it. It’s been about inspiring, and learning.

Of course, anecdotally, we’re doing far better with mental health now than a couple of decades ago. There might be numerous causes of anxiety, stress and strain, but the stigma in talking about struggling has certainly abated substantially, at least in some circles. That’s happened in large part thanks to efforts like this.

It seems likely, however, that current circumstances mean there’s never been a time where so many people feel as isolated as now.

In the midst of a series of heavy restrictions and full-on bad news that are preventing us from living out our normal lives, our usual social reliefs and perhaps many other forms of stress relief are on hold.

Other things that benefit mental wellness, like community participation, sports, holidays, and experiencing changing environments are all beyond our reach.

It’s not the same watching a mental health festival unfold online. How could it be. It is, however, a reflection of how our lives are currently spent, and as important now as at any moment in its decade-long history that this event went ahead. Check out its closing moments if you get the chance.

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