By Bev Jordan
Maddison Calcott, now 17, was in primary school when she was bullied and moving on to high school didn’t mean it stopped..it just changed. Mentalicious
“When I was young it was verbal and physical (abuse). I stood up for a girl that was being bullied and then it happened to me, every day,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave the school because I didn’t want them to win.”
The Hills local started songwriting at the age of 10 and found the creativity really helped.
At the age of 11 Maddison was hospitalised for six weeks after an operation on a brain abscess. She says it led to her to become more empathetic and aware of people dealing with challenging situations.
It was a different kind of bullying when she reached high school.
“It was much more subtle, which makes it worse,” she said.
“It dominates every day … not being tagged in photos, seeing things on social media you haven’t been included in.”
Maddison, who has always loved drama and film production, was 13 when she created her first award-winning short film for the Bloodfest film festival. This year she is one of three ambassadors for the annual Australian short film competition Mentalicious, open to Australian and New Zealand students in years 7-12.
Maddison was the only NSW finalist in the inaugural Mentalicious competition after her school invited her to make a short film on mental health for the competition. “Back then I was just starting to go through my own mental health issues.”
She ended up runner up in the finals and as a result, attended mental health in schools conference in Sydney and gave a short speech about her film.
“The conference was attended by teachers from schools all over Sydney, so my speech was honest and raw. I also highlighted issues of bullying through social media by exclusion. I felt this was my opportunity to make a difference.
“In 2019 I was formally diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder,” says Maddison. “Since then I have become very passionate about mental illness and breaking the stigma … if there are any kids out there that have been through similar situations, hopefully, my story helps them through it. “
She is encouraging students to get involved in the 2021 Mentalicious short film competition saying: “Having a creative outlet like film-making or performing arts can help free you of all the feelings and pressure. It’s a healthy way to express yourself and feel like you are being heard.”
Her message to other teenagers finding it tough is: “It’s okay to have issues with your mental health and there is no shame in asking for help. There will always be people out there who will help and support you through the tough times.
“And for those who know or suspect someone that’s going through something, sometimes all they need is for you to be present and listen and most of all be free of judgement”.
The closing date for entries to Mentalicious is this Saturday, September 11. There is no entry fee. To find out more and see previous entries visit https://propsych.com.au/