Today is ‘Are you OK?’ Day. ‘My passion for mental health in the community comes from being a young person with a lived experience of mental illness, so it was my journey to sort out who I was. What I learnt was how important all my art was to my recovery. Then through working in the mental health and disability sector and seeing how valuable art is as a mode of communication, I’ve discovered that anything that makes ourselves ‘sing’ – art and music, gardening, cooking – is so fantastic for our mental health and well-being.’
Surfcoast resident, Jules Haddock, is committed to Mental Health Education in the Geelong region. She is the initiator and driving force behind the Art of the Minds Festival, a variety of events taking place on the Surfcoast during Mental Health Week in October. The theme of the festival is ‘Hope’. Jules has just been acknowledged as a semi-finalist in the Victorian Regional Achievement Leadership Awards for this project.
‘Two years ago I began with my personal art project – The Anxious Bird – a book about my anxiety experiences and exhibition of my own art work. Then last year I called for other people to participate in an art exhibition during Mental Health Week. Artists who contacted me were very enthusiastic – they said that they had been waiting for this conversation about art and mental health. They said they were having the conversation privately through their own art explorations. That was the inspiration for this year’s festival.
‘The arts make exploring issues about mental health more attractive because people will go to the movies and watch a film, listen to music, go to a play, but they wouldn’t necessarily just go to a night that was promoted as ‘It’s all about mental health’. There is absolutely a real nexus between mental health and art. You only have to google all the famous artists in the world who come out about how their art helps them cope. For people with mental health issues who engage in art, it is a major part of what we call ‘The Recovery Model’, and recovery is all about realising that anyone at any stage is vulnerable to any illness – physical and mental – and the maintenance of your mind is about using your art. When you become conscious of that, it becomes an even more powerful tool to keep your mind well.
‘I’m the type of person who brings people together. I love drawing groups of people together, and then stepping back and seeing what happens. It’s a rich reward for me. I’m a networker and that’s how I’ve got this festival together. This whole ‘Art of The Minds’ concept is also backed by a lot of clinical and professional research. I hope that the festival becomes sustainable, not a one off, and financially viable so that it opens up a continuing conversation for the community about mental illness and well- being without the stigma that is associated with it.
‘I want people to have a conscious awareness that the experience of enjoying the arts improves and maintains our mental health, makes us feel good, that it is part of a formula that restores our mental health – it’s not just about psychiatrists, medication and hospitals. It’s about the way we live and bring all these beautiful kinds of things into our minds as well.
‘Highlights of the festival include a very exciting play by writer Janet Brown called ‘The Hope Song’. I asked Janet to write a play for the festival and it is directed by Iris Walshe Howling.
The Mayor will be launching Mental Health Week at the opening performance of the play at Anglesea on Sunday afternoon October 8. The festival includes an art exhibition – people from beyond the Surfcoast are exhibiting too; open mic comedy night; celebrating food and theatre; the Torquay Primary School is involved with art and well-being activities; yoga family fun day; Sand Whisperers … there’s more!
‘Education is a huge facet of the festival and always will be. We need to teach children and adults about our minds and what’s good for our minds. We know writing and drawing help to shift negative thoughts and I want people to understand their conscious confidence – they know that when they do those activities that they will feel better, they will feel good. I already have my idea for next year’s festival theme!’
Jules was interviewed by writer Janet Brown. Janet has devised the script ‘The Hope Song’, a verbatim theatre project, from her interviews with people who have experienced mental health challenges. For more information about the Art of the Minds Festival, follow it on Facebook – Art Of The Minds. Photo: Phil Hines Photography.
For an uplifting first day of Mental Health Week, come along to the #humansingeelongexpo, Sunday October 8, Deakin Waterfront followed by the Art of the Minds Festival launch in Anglesea.