blog 5- My Interview Related Mental Health; What Does My Interviewee Say?

By Marcella K. Handoko Kwee

Studio Interview Session

Psychotherapy session interview
Professional experienced therapist conducting interview with patient (The Stockton Therapy Network n.d.)

During studio session, I conducted an interview related mental health (as part of the class activity) with one of my classmates. I provided him 6 interview questions based self-experience and self-opinion, which have not been discussed in any sources I have found in my research. I aim to conduct another interview with one of my friends with different gender, personality, experiences, perspective and opinions. I would expect different views between research findings and one interviewee to another. Below is the list of questions of interview conducted:

  • Question 1:
    Position yourself in a situation where your close friend suffers from mental illness. This person repeatedly has said something like “I cant handle this anymore. Nothing can help me.” Would that change your perspective/feeling towards your best friend? Would you feel scared of your friend and leave him/her because you think this person will do no good to you or would you help him/her to get out of the problems? What would you say to your friend? What is your idea?
  • Question 2:
    According to your opinion, what is considered a serious mental illness?
  • Question 3:
    Based on your experiences, do you have the ability to spot mental issue on other people? Could you spot whether someone has mental issue? If the answer is yes, what makes you think that way? Would you quietly helping this people although this person is not aware of it?
  • Question 4:
    When you ask someone ‘how are you? how have you been?’ Let just say this person answers ‘I am good or I am doing fine etc’, would you believe it? Would you really think this person is doing fine?
  • Question 5:
    Have u ever been in a situation when you feel so upset and you thought you suffered from mental illness?
  • Question 6:
    When you feel underpressure from school assignments. Do you think that would affect your mental health? What could you do about it?

Spending time with loved ones affected with mental illness, getting familiar with the problems is a powerful tool “for changing attitudes, influencing fear, social distance, and hence stigma”, instead of simply suggesting them to seek help of others.

I would like to point out some findings that I thought would be great to point out in the summary. To answer the first question, first interviewee said that he would follow western culture where a person who has little to no knowledge on the matter, especially something that relates to personal psychological problems should not be giving suggestions to anyone, which might worsen the issue. He would calm his friend down and simply suggest him to seek mental health professionals because the professionals should be able to handle this issue better than him. However, he did not make clear statements whether psychological problems of his friend might affect his feelings/attitudes toward his friend. According to OAM (2013, in A life without stigma), spending time with loved ones affected with mental illness, getting familiar with the problems is a powerful tool “for changing attitudes, influencing fear, social distance, and hence stigma”, instead of simply suggesting them to seek help of others. I would agree with this statement because unstable people with mental issue can only feel emotionally supported and warmness in families and dearly friends, which cannot be found in professional helps. A recent study found “knowing someone who is open about having a mental health problem has a clear and positive impact on attitude and behaviour.” (Time to Change, 2013 in OAM 2013)

Some people can hide their problems very well.

In answering question 3 and 4, he stated that he does not have the ability to spot ‘what is going on’ in other people. So he would not know if the person who he has been seeing to is suffering from mental illness. He said “some people can hide their problems very well.” Furthermore, he told me that he has watched a quite good show associated with mental health on youtube. The show is called ‘A Life and Depression by Matthew J. Dempsey’. However, I have no chances to watch it just yet. Although he could not spot whether someone is having a though day, he would still not believe if they say ‘I am doing good’ or ‘I am having a good day’. According to my interviewee, it is inappropriate to show vulnerability unhappiness to people particularly in western cultures. Everyone has their own problems, why would you help him/her if you cannot even solve your own problems. Furthermore, he pointed out that it would have been different if we were in asian cultures. “When you talk to a person, they would give better suggestions eventhough they arent professionals” and yet, all depends on the topic of discussion. I somehow agree with his statements. Based on my research, people with mental health issue tend to cover up their feelings and mental conditions due to the fear of being considered ‘crazy’. So that would not be possible to spot other’s mental conditions unless they reach us and try to speak up.

Lastly, he has no doubt that school assignments are the reasons he feels anxious for quite sometime. This sounds interesting to me. I thought I was the only one who feel extremely anxious and crying due to school works. Additionally, he pointed out that he would seek professionals in case the anxiety comes back.

To conclude, I am not quite satisfied with the interview findings this time. I should have kept the conversation going by replying my interviewee’s answers. I will try different approaches next time. I personally do not think a conducted interview alone is strong enough to help me understand other’s views toward mental issue on regular basis. I would like to know more about other’s opinions on stigma of mental health, whether they agree or disagree with medias’ perspectives toward people with mental issue etc.

Peer’s Home Task

A few days later, I contacted my interviewee once again regarding his statements in the interview question number 4. I asked him what makes him think that western culture, particularly in Australia is different from Asian cultures in expressing personal feelings to other people that it is inappropriate to show vulnerability unhappiness to people when they are being asked ‘how are you?’, ‘how do you feel?’ and similar questions.

The findings according to the research he conducted:

  • The fear of ‘face loss’ in Asian cultures, particularly in the East regions. In East Asia, people like to show the good side of attitudes and behaviours to others, care so much about others’ opinions, avoid judgements and live very low-profile. They are scared of being different and somehow tend to be introverted. “They’d rather die with a billion than survive on their own.”
  • Second factor is mental health stigma does exist in Asia as well. The idealised image of being mentally-ill is being crazy. They are not aware that mental health problems come in various ways to various degrees. My interviewee told me that he has watched a YouTube video about a psychologist who shares about the severity states of mental health issue in between Asian American and White American when the time they seek professional helps. It is very shocking to know the truth that Asian American is way more severe than White American. The culture is individual should not be concerned over minor problems. It is very unlucky of them to try to seek professional helps when the issue they have cannot be handled anymore due to their lack of mental health knowledge over culture as well as their pride of getting positive names.
  • The interesting findings on how Asians treat physical issue and mental issue. In physical case, people in Asia will gladly advice others either to receive specific medications or to see doctors. According to his statement, “the whole motivation of this peer help is the result of the collective survivalism of Asian culture. To survive together. To help each other. This collective survivalism is also the root of the fear of ‘face loss’.” However, overcoming the fear of judgements by being more open about their mental states to others is very risky. They will receive different treatments in regular basis or get specific labels from people they know.

I also asked him about his dicoveries on mental health stigma and opinions toward media in this case. His statements are:

  • Media should have been more aware of such negative presentations of people with mental issue. It will not reduce any acts of criminality in the world neither will help solving any actual problems. Violence can come from anyone. Furthermore, people with mental issue is still human and even if they have committed to such criminality, there might have been reasons for their ‘dangerous’ behaviours. Media should have been teaching good. Media should have been used as one of public’s learning platforms: to share knowledge, especially of mental health issue, what takes place, how it works so that public becomes more aware of mental health and thus provide more helps and supports instead of portraying them negatively.
  • Lastly, he added “The media is a massive existence. It is a platform. Actually, there are a lot of platforms. And these platforms are controlled by people. We, as visual communicators and designers, have a certain amount of power to actually change people’s minds. So I suggest, like a famous designer once said, ‘Don’t do good design. Do good.’ I think designers have the responsibility to make the world a better place. Regarding this issue, designers and creatives can create posters, info-graphics and videos about mental health, educating the people on social media.”
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