Light at the end of the tunnel: Max’s positive message on mental health in the pandemic

Light at the end of the tunnel: Max’s positive message on mental health in the pandemic

Old Elizabethan Max Hassell gave a virtual talk for senior pupils on his experiences with ADHD, anxiety and depression as the country marked Children’s Mental Health Week.

In the lunchtime address, Max (OE 2002–2009) reflected on his own journey and underlined to the boys the benefits of seeking help, should they need it. It was only when, quite recently, he received his medical diagnosis that he was finally able to make sense of some of his own reactions and behaviour in the past, he explained.

Max concluded with an appeal to the boys to look out for themselves and for their friends. “Especially because of Covid, a lot of people are struggling in these times and people’s mental health has gone down a bit…Don’t be afraid to show weakness with each other…check up on each other; talk about things…be kind to each other.”

At QE, Max was a keen sportsman, playing in the First XV and representing Hertfordshire at U16 and U18 levels. “I absolutely loved it [at QE],” he said. “I grew up just around the corner. I was a really confident kid, and it was only later that I started to get these feelings around possible depression and possible anxiety.”

After gaining straight As in his A-levels at QE, Max went to Bristol to read History and continued his rugby there, playing in the university Second XV.

In his talk, Max said it was beneficial for the boys to hear from an alumnus of the School – somebody who had been in their shoes. He explained that he sought to open a dialogue on important topics around which there can still be stigma and to challenge the stereotypes of what someone with ADHD is like: great progress had been made in society, he acknowledged, but there was still further to go.

Left to their own devices and with their own thoughts, people could find themselves in a “dark place”, he said, which was why he urged the boys to check up on each other.

Today Max is a football agent – “my dream job” – with Sync Global Sports, a London-based agency.

“You can be diagnosed with these kinds of medical conditions, but you can still have a very happy and fulfilled life and it does not have to hold you back in any way,” he said.

The Headmaster, Neil Enright, said it had been a privilege to be able to hear Max’s talk, which was timely in the context of the lockdown and ongoing pandemic. “Prioritising wellbeing and encouraging boys to talk about their feelings is at the core of the daily pastoral support and guidance sessions in eQE, our virtual school.

“Thank you, Max, for being a great role model, for raising awareness about some of the barriers to positive mental health young men may face and for prompting so much discussion across eQE.”

Assistant Head (Pupil Development) Michael Feven also conveyed his thanks to Max: “He spoke so openly to our current boys about his experiences of being diagnosed with ADHD and living with anxiety and depression. This is such an important message for young men to hear, and we are hugely grateful to Max for sharing his story in this way.”

The talk was recorded and remains available on the QE Connect network, where it can be accessed by alumni and senior pupils.