aside Musician and composer Shell Dooley speaks about music as therapy “I think creative expression is one of the best forms of therapy. It gives an individual a chance to communicate feelings that may not be able to come out in other forms. It can also be very calming and provide a focus and stability”.

Shell Dooley
Shell Dooley

Shell Dooley, 26  from Dublin, Ireland, is an existing ASLI artist who we found during our “celebration of women” campaign earlier this year, here is our interview with Shell , Shell Dooley “Music has definitely saved my life and helped me through difficult situations” for this issue we are talking about mental illness and te application of art and all forms of creativity. Shell is a musician and composer whose music we fell in love with, so were keen to have her as part of the ASLI family and mission “to create change”, so here is our latest interview with this bright young star:

What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject?

I think this a very emotional, complex and deep subject that could produce a therapeutic piece of music with a high emotional value. I thought I could communicate and highlight certain emotions and the loneliness that may incur in this situation in a musical work.

The piece I have featured is called ‘Warships’ for guitar orchestra and voices. The piece has a very tense and emotional atmosphere highlighting loneliness and struggle but also hope and recovery.

Who inspires you in general?

Aside from my musical influences, I am often inspired by my surroundings or by a certain location. Sometimes my friends may inspire me and something they might mention or we might discuss. My featured piece was actually set into motion by something my friend said that was completely unrelated to the subject matter but it set the ball rolling for the concept. You can be surprised what might inspire something so it’s good to always be open to ideas!

What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for…?

I feel very strongly about equality for everyone. I would consider myself a feminist and I am very passionate about equality for women and women’s rights.

What do the statements “art saves lives” and “art creates change” mean to you?`

To me, art can help the artist or a spectator cope with a personal struggle of any kind or communicate an emotion. Art is any form is such a personal experience for the artist and the spectator, whether it is the artist pouring their emotion into their creation or the spectator relating their experiences and emotions to another’s art.

Music is an important part of my life and can be a powerful form of expression. In everything an artist creates, a part of themselves is put into it and I find this every time I write a new piece. Creativity in any form is a fantastic outlet for expression, communication and to deal with anything you may be going through.

Have your artistic and creative outlets saved your life in any way and do you think your message within them could help create change in the world?

I would hope that they could create a change, big or small. Personal events in my life have inspired my music and if someone can relate to something within the music or find something that helps them that is an achievement.

What are your present and future goals for your art?

At the moment, I am working on building up my music works and getting my music performed and out there for people to hear! Down the line I hope to be composing for more films and public works.

The following questions are about mental health:

How does your artistic /creative expression help you with your mental health?

Art is an extraordinarily therapeutic medium. Many emotions and feelings are expressed through art in any form. When someone hears a piece of music, reads a poem or sees a painting, it is usually the emotion and feeling of the artist that is communicated to the spectator. That being said, a very difficult situation can be eased for an artist through their own art and communicating how they are feeling in this way can help. On the other side, this artist’s work can help others deal with what they are going through if they can relate to the emotions of the art, or if they can find something that they can take from this to help them.

It is important to keep peace of mind to help with mental health. Creative expression is a great way to deal with difficult situations and emotions and help you through them.

Do you think society and culture is accepting of people with mental illness?

I do, I think in recent years there has been more awareness raised about mental health and disorders, which has helped with understanding and acceptance in this area. I feel that this has made it easier for people to reach out for help and talk about what they’re going through which is a vital part of getting on the road to recovery. Support and understanding are crucial elements of a struggle of any kind and being unsure of whether or not you have this kind of foundation can make a battle like this lonely and more difficult. Awareness and acceptance in society helps counteract this and this is a positive change.

How do you feel your Government in your country helps people with mental illness and could they do more?

In most situations I think there is always room for growth and expansion with help and health, but considering the growing awareness for mental illness over the years I think this is a sign of more positive things on the horizon.

Do you think artistic / creative expression can be used to help people with mental health problems?

Absolutely. I think creative expression is one of the best forms of therapy. It gives an individual a chance to communicate feelings that may not be able to come out in other forms. It can also be very calming and provide a focus and stability.

Do you think artistic / creative expression could help raise awareness and communicate how mental illness affects people?

Absolutely. As I’ve said before, the creative practices are a form of emotional expression and so much can be taken from an artist’s work. So much of themselves is poured into it. If people are made aware of an individual’s emotional state through their work it will raise awareness in a very different way as it is a window into someone’s feelings and emotions, rather than just hearing the facts about symptoms of an illness. The individual and how they feel is of the utmost importance and that is what should be seen in order to raise awareness that makes an impact.

What made you want to get involved with ASLI’s MENTAL ILLNESS, HEALTH AND RECOVERY CAMPAIGN?

I think this is an important issue for people to made aware of, and if I can help through my own art I am happy to do so. If anybody going through anything could be helped my relating to something I had written that would make writing my pieces even more worthwhile.

Do you believe in more rights for mentally ill people in the work place and for equal opportunities?

Absolutely. Everyone in society deserves equal treatment.

Everyone within ASLI is affected in some way by mental illness, with our MD having several chronic mental illnesses and other members either caring for or dealing with mental health issues. Would this make you think twice about working with ASLI? And does this make ASLI “less professional” in your opinion and if so why?

This would not be an issue for me working with ASLI. The mission of ASLI is in the name – to save lives through artistic mediums and to raise awareness of issues that effect lives. Being aware of the mission of ASLI and this being my second time taking part in a campaign, this would not change any opinion I have of the organisation. I think what they do is fantastic and I will continue to help to raise awareness with them.

Are there any artists/creatives/performers which you admire, who suffer from mental illness that you feel use their work to discuss or highlight mental health?

There is so much that can be taken from someone’s artistic work and I’ve found this in a lot of artists I admire. One of my favourite writer’s is Sylvia Plath and the raw emotion in her work is amazing. There are also musicians, such as Ian Curtis and Kurt Cobain who I admire for pouring their personal emotions into their work.

If you would like to find out more about Shell follow these links:


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