180 seconds with Maiah Stewardson

Maiah Stewardson, creative


180: Tell us a ‘lil bit about who we’re talking to?
Maiah: My name is Maiah Stewardson, and I am 19 years old!


180: What do you currently do for $$$
M: My 'real life job' (as people like to say!) is working in hospo. So I basically get to pour beers, serve food and make sure people have a great night at my local restaurant. It’s a great job for a creative actually - so much opportunity for people watching!


180: What are your current passions or side projects… what lights your fire?
M: Currently, I work across a few different mediums. I come from a background in acting and am soon to begin work on a fantastic new theatre work with Windmill Theatre Company. I also partake in quite a bit of writing - across freeverse and narrative poetry, to spoken word poetry (which I am really diving into) and blogs, essays, interviews and short creative stories. I am also lucky enough to collaborate on two upcoming film works, one being a short film based on a spoken word piece I have written, and the other being a music video for a brilliant vocalist. On the side, I also work on the first Headspace Australia Podcasts... where I talk to 12-25 year olds about life + mental health. I'd say I like to define myself as an artist: but specifically a storymaker. I not only love telling stories, but I am enticed by the making process: from that first conversation, to the pitch, to shooting/writing/editing/acting. My central goal in my work is to tell universal stories in DIVERSE ways, for I believe we all fall in love with stories in different ways, and I want to make work that includes all types of audiences. There's lots of messages that I feel can move people, pull at their heartstrings and teach them something about being human - and my favourite thing is to creatively share those messages.

180: Where did you find out about One Eighty? What made you want to be involved in our movement?
M: I found out about One Eighty via my social media. I follow quite a few organisations, and One Eighty was suggested to me! What I loved is that you also include the arts in spreading your message - which is exactly what I do in my work! I like to find the intersection between artistic pursuits and complex minds to convey that while healthy minds are incredibly important, complicated brains can also be wonderful and utilised in amazing ways to create art.


180: What has your learning journey with mental health been? When was it something you started thinking about?
M: I have spent about 15 years of my life experiencing mental illness and am really fortunate to have grown up being able to have comfortable conversations about my mental health. There were a few years in my life where I was very unwell - but after coming out of that experience, I made a pact with myself that I would always honour and take care of my mental health, reach out when I needed help and educate myself on how to manage my mental illness. My mental health is something that I now love. Although, at times, it has been really difficult, my experiences also make me empathetic, stronger and aware of my sense of self.

Image: Ellen McCarthy @ellentakesportraits

Image: Ellen McCarthy @ellentakesportraits

Image: Brendan Bonsack

Image: Brendan Bonsack

180: How does your relationship or engagement with mental health affect your work as an artist?
M: Given that I am very aware of my mental health, and feel strongly about discussing it, it is inevitable that it has an impact with my creative outlets. Much of my work examines our relationships with ourselves, and the images/ideas/emotions that run through our minds and bodies in times of crisis. In being really aware of what my body and brain does when I am going though a rough time with my mental health, it gives me access to a whole lot of funky visual ideas that I like to employ in my poetry and filmmaking! It is important for me to nourish the relationship between my mental heath and my art. A great acting teacher, Larry Moss, once said; "know what is unique about you as an artist, and then always do that. There is room for you". And I think my awareness of my mental state and emotions brings something to my storytelling.


180: Would you consider yourself an active advocate for mental health care? Why is this important?
M: I would like to consider myself one! I think taking care of, and talking about, mental health should be no different from talking about a sprained wrist. I believe that in opening up the dialogue - and encouraging frank conversations eliminates the stigma of mental health, and enables us to take care of others and ourselves easily. My work with Headspace allows me to act as a voice for the youth mental health organisation, but also for young people experiencing mental illness themselves. And I hope that some of my writing also allows me to spark conversations between people about mental health and the human condition. Being an advocate for mental health care and awareness is so important! I want the next generation of kids to grow up in a world where it is totally okay to struggle and talk about it.

Image: Ellen McCarthy @ellentakesportraits

Image: Ellen McCarthy @ellentakesportraits

180: What do you think individuals, communities and society at large, can do to increase mental health literacy and care?
M: I honestly think it is about facilitating the dialogue around this issue in multiple ways - for me, it's through art. It's through storytelling! When we bring our attention to stories that explore the issue of mental health, we are implicitly acknowledging the validity of mental illness - and the experiences associated with that.


180: Where can people find out more about you?
M: Ah! My website: www.mindofmaiah.com.au - you'll find my poetry, blogs, interviews, film work and collaborations with other artists! And also @maiah_emily on instagram - I am pretty active on there, and my spoken word usually makes a cheeky appearance.

Interview and editing: Paris Jeffcoat

Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000. 

Leanne Westlake