The HOAX Project is a long term, ambitious project that has sought throughout to push the boundaries of engagement, involvement and impact around serious mental illness.
It began with two existing, award-winning Ziggy’s Wish cross-media narratives, created and launched 2012-2014. Both were based on the true story of a young man from Manchester called Rob, his life with schizophrenia, through to his death by suicide.
The first was the stage musical HOAX My Lonely Heart; and the second was its sequel the graphic novel HOAX Psychosis Blues.
Here these are collectively referred to as HOAX.
The stage musical HOAX My Lonely Heart
The graphic novel HOAX Psychosis Blues
It was evident from the qualitative feedback that HOAX had a profound effect on its audiences, suggesting these cross-media narratives held a very real potential to change attitudes, reduce public stigma and reduce self-stigma around mental health.
The HOAX Project 2015-2018
In 2015, we began working with the Psychosis Research Unit (PRU) – a joint project between Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and The University of Manchester – to explore how PRU might quantitatively harness that potential and test the hypothesis that HOAX could lead to positive behavior change around mental health, and even to self-recovery. Thus we created The HOAX Project – a world-first cross-media narrative, health research study.
The aim was to study the impact of HOAX on audiences, including those who self-identified as having mental health difficulties; and whether this impact was long-lasting.
For this to work, PRU required access to a wide range of members of the public, as well as an optimized way to gather data from them over time. It was crucial this data-collection method supported the HOAX content being studied, to minimise the audience being ‘pulled out’ of their engagement with that content, and therefore to give the truest reflection of its impact.
Thus we developed and delivered a mobile app for the project, using our Applied Narrative Technology, titled HOAX Our Right to Hope.
The HOAX Our Right to Hope App
The HOAX Our Right to Hope app was specifically designed to help people connect to PRU’s mental-health research in a way that showed them why the research was important, and why they should take part in it.
As such, the app not only housed PRU’s study questions, but it also wrapped them in an Applied Narrative. This was a new piece of HOAX narrative that we created to seamlessly dovetail with the original HOAX content. It meant the audience could take part in the study without feeling like they were leaving the HOAX experience.
As this new piece of narrative was digital, built with our Applied Narrative Technology tools, it meant we could provide PRU with highly efficient data-capture, categorisation, and export capabilities.
The HOAX Tour
In order to reach a wide range of members of the public with The HOAX Project, we worked with Arts Council England to tour a pilot of The HOAX Project across the north of England.