An open letter to Mind Jersey

Posted: Apr 23, 2020

Reflections upon my old friend Max Dolan

Reflections upon my old friend Max Dolan and the value we both derived from our creativity activities

"During these uncertain times maintaining everybody’s mental health is a real priority. People should try and look out for each other, empathise and provide support whenever they can. We are all interconnected and vulnerable and we can all make a difference to ourselves, and the community in which we live.

Through Mind Jersey I am hoping to share my thoughts and experiences of how the creative arts have helped me, and my old school friend Max Dolan who was a gifted actor and a talented musician who came from Jersey.

Art has always been central to my life and when I was at school in Somerset I became really immersed in creativity. It was here that I met Max, one of my best school friends. We became friends through our different views and our way of looking at the world and the creativity that we shared. It was very enriching to our lives.

After school we lost touch but then found out, a few years later, that we had both had lived with mental illness. This had blighted both our lives. While Max found solace in his music and various creative arts, I found mine in painting. Music and art had helped us both cope and find a way forward.

I last saw Max shortly after his 33rd birthday here in Jersey. We had great fun for a few days as he showed me around the island. He found the progress that I had made inspiring. Sharing each other’s creative endeavours helped both of us in managing the challenges we faced.

The impact of mental illness is, in some ways, similar to a car accident. The journey back can be long and hard. It is often misunderstood; people might think that the person affected is just lazy, inattentive or being difficult. Both my family and Max’s found it hard to understand our illness as the information available, and the insight needed, is often not passed on and people can be left in the dark not knowing what best to do for their loved ones.

The repercussions of this, together with the side effects that can arise from taking medication where the person can slow down and gain weight, often makes the situation worse as those around don’t understand. I was often left feeling like the main character from Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.

Max would love for people to know that there is life at the end of the tunnel for everyone who suffers. He was an amazing person who was blighted by this illness. In his passing his last words to his parents were, ‘don’t worry; be happy’.

When people are better educated and informed about how the brain works, and how mental illness can affect people, we will be much more likely to find and provide the support that is required. There is often a lot of blaming that goes on and it is important to know that it is nobody’s fault but rather the effects of an illness.

If we feel isolated and alone, troubled or anxious, creativity can be of enormous value to us. Drawing something as simple as a flower or a walnut shell can take us out from the worry or anxiety we may be experiencing and help us focus the mind whilst at the same time creating something beautiful. Art can rebalance people, helping them see things in themselves that they may have previously ignored.

Max and I found enormous value in our creativity and knew of its healing powers. If our respective journeys touch and inspire even just a few people to get creative and tackle their mental illness head on, it will be worth it."

George Harding