Help Is On Its Way
A national choral initiative, shining a light on mental health through song.
Australia is in the grip of a mental health crisis, and men—who are statistically much less likely to seek help—are at particular risk: suicide is the most common cause of death for Australian males aged 15-45, and regional men are even more vulnerable.
These stark statistics inspired QMF to create a program aimed at fostering a national dialogue around men’s mental health, encouraging at-risk men to reach out, and raising awareness around the range of services available. Help is on Its Way featured Glenn Shorrock of Little River Band fame, delivering an eight-stop regional tour and culminating in a mass choral spectacular in Brisbane. The program offered singers of all levels throughout the state the opportunity to perform with Shorrock as part of this landmark project.
Help is on its Way used music as the vehicle to start conversations about men’s mental health in homes and communities across Queensland. The program opened a communal space for this difficult but necessary conversation, and focused on reducing the sense of isolation often felt by those struggling with their mental health. For participants, the chance to come together in song offered a range of benefits, from the immediate gratification and pleasure offered by singing with others (a psychosocial benefit evidenced by an increasing body of neuroscientific research), to the chance to build social and professional networks, friendships, and creative skills.
Independent Concerts (inspired by the initiative)
States and Territories involved
In order to effectively measure these outcomes, QMF commissioned researchers at Griffith University to undertake a study to measure the social, emotional, psychological and benefits of the event. The resulting report, which provided a solid contribution to the growing evidence base for the psychosocial benefits of community music programs, found that the program achieved the following outcomes:
- Less stigma associated with openly talking about mental health issues by using a high profile event as a platform for discussion;
- Greater awareness of sources of help and support through QMF marketing, promotion, social media reach, and on-the ground services;
- Stronger communities through new networks and connections, and a positive shared experience;
- Greater participation in arts and cultural activities through encouraging more people to join in and sing.
The conceptual sequel to the highly acclaimed You’re the Voice project in 2017, Help is on its Way galvanised thousands to connect through song. Led by Dr Jonathon Welch AM, founder of the world-famous Choir of Hard Knocks, more than 100 community and school choirs across eight states and territories came together to perform the Little River Band classic Help is on its Way, alongside two-time ARIA Hall of Fame inductee, Glenn Shorrock, and a slew of special guests.
In the lead up to the mass-choral spectacular in Brisbane, the Help is on its Way Flying Tour saw Glenn and his band headline an eight-stop regional tour, performing in Chinchilla, Moranbah, Barcaldine, Hughenden, Birdsville, Cunnamulla, Beaudesert, and Townsville. The tour focused on communities that had been severely impacted by drought, flooding, and instability in the resources sector, where concerns around men’s mental health were especially prevalent. The Royal Flying Doctors' Service was present at each of the regional events to raise awareness of supports available and ensure professional support on the day in vulnerable communities.
A single voice is a single voice, but together we created magic. I’m not just referring to the sound, but the inclusiveness, sense of connection, and belonging somewhere that can make a difference.Choral Participant
It made me feel human again. I can’t tell you how much of a robot I feel like, as a mother and a farmer’s wife. All of a sudden I had a purpose and a passion and something just for me. I felt alive, real, energised, important, validated, excited, and connected.Regional Participant
It was an absolute pleasure ... to have the privilege of seeing behind the scenes of such an iconic event. I feel truly grateful … to be present amongst all those amazing voices on the night!CEO, Roses in the Ocean
Peter Young Photography
Help is on Its Way was in many ways an experiment in creating new linkages and reciprocities between the regions and the city. This was achieved not just through the tour that took the show to several remote towns, but also through the participatory and inclusive nature of the online choral activities, which were designed with a key focus on outreach and decentralisation. Regional participants were encouraged to join the Brisbane event to celebrate the culmination of the project, with some choirs travelling in excess of 400km to participate.
Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the project demonstrated that the regional tour also created a significant sense of joy and pride for audiences and participants alike, particularly in drought and flood-affected communities. Data from our research partners showed that the project demonstrably improved both individual and communal well-being by strengthening social connections, encouraging emotional expression, reducing isolation, and building a sense of belonging. In addition, leadership and skills development elements strengthened community choirs throughout regional Queensland, and encouraged community engagement in the arts by demonstrating the value of and benefits offered by community-based arts collectives like choirs.
QMF partnered with Griffith University, Roses in the Ocean, The Royal Flying Doctors Service Drought Wellbeing team, Queensland Mental Health Commission, and Black Dog Institute to produce a research study on the need for and efficacy of this project, and in so doing, added to the evidence base of the potential of arts projects to effect social change and positively impact individual wellbeing. These insights will allow us to refine and improve our social impact projects going forward.