18 Oct 2013

Youth Rockin' the Black Dog

Picture courtesy of Hunter Institute of Mental Health
A few days ago James Osborn was announced as the winner of Youth Rockin’ the Black Dog, a music competition designed to raise awareness of mental health issues among young people in the Hunter and surrounding regions. 

The competition is coordinated by friends in the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, together with staff from Hunter headspace and Newcastle headspace. It is supported by The Loft Youth Arts & Cultural Centre, Lizotte's Newcastle, the local Newcastle music industry and business sponsorships.
I think it’s fantastic to see this type of initiative. Mr Jose Antonio Abreu, who founded a system of youth orchestras in Venezuela, talks about the life-changing effects of music in this inspiring TED talk on "Kids transformed by music."  
Too often, when I worked in the UK, I found that health promotion professionals resorted to sports as a way of engaging young people from disadvantaged areas. I felt there was a lack of interest in programmes that focused on arts and music, perhaps because staff were afraid these would be “highbrow” programmes that wouldn't appeal to the population groups they were working with. I found this attitude patronising.
Youth Rockin’ the Black Dog encourages young people to get thinking and talking about mental health issues and aims to promote a range of local and national services available to them.
Not only it’s an opportunity to talk about mental health but it gives emerging musicians a platform that helps them get noticed and participate in other festivals.

I come from a small town where male friends who were in rock bands and had long hair would continuously get stopped by the police and get asked to show their ID, as they were considered suspicious. It wasn't a great place to be different in any way.

My sister Iara is a real “rock chick”, who’s always had way more energy than me in getting to the front of the crowd at gigs and who can party till the sun comes out and tell me off if I suggest it may be time for me to go home.

She has been involved in the music world since she was a teenager, getting to know all the local bands. Although she may have been a bit shy about going on stage herself, she plays electric guitar with passion.
In Guadalajara, my home town, opportunities for emerging musicians are scarce and most music venues are way too small and poorly set up.

Having an initiative like Youth Rockin’ the Black Dog back there would be great to help emerging musicians and to raise awareness about mental health.

Who knows, maybe nowadays the band members wouldn't get stopped and searched by the police on their way to the venue where they’re supposed to play.