Although I'd been vaguely familiar with the term, I hadn't really explored it all that much before HOAX, nor indeed had I thought about exploring it with HOAX, which was written very much from the heart and without agenda other than a desire to tell the story.
But as HOAX has developed, so too has the exploration of its potential. And with the introduction of Professor Matt Green, The University of Nottingham and a research strand to the project, the potential of HOAX to contribute to Medical Humanities is becoming clear.
Ian Williams (independent general practitioner, comics artist and editor of Graphic Medicine) wrote in an article earlier this year:
“Among the growing number of works of graphic fiction, a number of titles dealing directly with the patient experience of illness or caring for others with an illness are to be found. Thanks in part to the Medical Humanities movement, many medical schools now encourage the reading of classic literature to gain insight into the human condition. Until recently, the medium of comics has received little attention from healthcare scholars. This paper suggests that it is time the medium was examined by healthcare professionals, and asks whether comics and graphic novels could be used as a resource for health professionals, patients and carers.”
Whilst the inspiration for HOAX is my younger brother, whose life was plagued and ultimately destroyed by schizophrenia, neither the musical stage performance nor the graphic novel aim to be about schizophrenia directly. They are simply about my brother. They are based on a series of poems written throughout the duration of his illness and which convey a whole raft of emotions.
However, in an illness where patient-to-doctor deception is par for the course, perhaps these poems present the most honest set of symptoms a practitioner might hope to find? I don't know. But I do think it's worth exploring....