Last week, beneath fluorescent lamps in Parramatta's City Centre Car Park, sat a vending machine called Intangible Goods. Stocked with packets and candybars labelled 'Purpose', 'Bravery', 'Chill' and more, our work took part in Parramatta Lanes Festival.
As passersby interacted with the work, we wondered, what Parramattians might need most - and more broadly, what the state of mental health is in Sydney's second city.
Friends Meltem and Ola from Lidcombe and Liverpool both chose reassurance. Overheard whispering, “I think I need chill too though!”, Meltem said she chose reassurance to help her find self-confidence in her new career.
“Right now, I’m the fetus form of a teacher and it’s easy to compare yourself to others with experience. It’s daunting but you need a reminder that, ‘Yeah, I have ability, I have passion, what you’re doing is exciting.”
Ola also chose reassurance, seeking a reprieve from turbulence in her life. “How I envisaged myself at this age is not where I am right now and I haven’t reached certain milestones. I’m just realising that I’m not comfortable with the tangent I’m on, and not to resort to a cliché, but you have to know that it’s ok and you’re where you need to be.”
Stopping to buy an Intangible Good, Ola said that in our fast paced lifestyle, people still don’t talk about mental health openly.
“It’s all about work and that’s not the way it’s meant to be. It creates a cognitive dissonance that begins to manifest as anxiety. It’s just about knowing if you’re not ok, that’s ok.”
Skyla, also urged people to seek help if they’re struggling. “Mental health is very important because it’s something people don’t see,” she said. “You can see a broken arm but you can’t see what’s happening in people’s minds.”
Skyla chose belonging, having moved to Sydney from Canada two months ago. “I have to start all over again meeting friends and making connections. There are lots of new people at school and in my life now. I worked really hard on connections at home…so now I’m looking for connection.”
Seeking a different kind of acceptance, Sel, a local from Parramatta chose imagination to help her get a new career off the ground and get some creative spark. “I’m in finance now and I want to take the lead and in the next two years do something with food. I just volunteered to make a friend’s wedding cake – it’s something to make me get going!”
Everyone urged those who felt they needed help to ask for it. Karen, also from Parramatta, chose reassurance to reduce self doubt. “I’m doing my PhD and it’s a bit of struggle to finish it some days!” Karen believes
“Intangibles are the most important things in life, because what affects your mental health the most – as someone who has depression – are the tangible things.”
From those who chose friendship to nurture their connections, to others who saw Intangible Goods as a great opportunity to purchase gifts to help those around them, support of mental health was clear. As Emilia put it, “Life is worth living and it really is what you make of it!”
Overall, Intangible Goods sold over 500 snacks for the soul over the course of Parramatta’s four day festival. The best sellers were Spontaneity, Purpose and Bravery, as visitors chose to channel their adventurous side or find strength to face their challenges. With all profits going to Parramatta Mission, Headspace and Flourish Australia, we raised a total of $1,104 with our goal to support the open discussion of mental health Australia-wide.
For locals and visitors, Parramatta Lanes welcomed everyone to a playground – an enticing laneway maze of art, culture, food and music, where everyone was encouraged to come hungry, and leave inspired.