The many faces of Mental Illness.

POST 3: Mapping Participants and Creating an Image Archive




This map was an extremely useful tool to reveal the extent of the issue of Mental Illness and the extremely large number of stakeholders, both human and non-human, that are involved in this issue in many different ways. This map pictured above aims to categorize these potential stakeholders and understand the relationships between them. We tried our best to draw lines between entities that were related or that might be similar in some way. This activity was really helpful in understanding the scope of the issue but most importantly it allowed us as designers to understand where problem solving may be able to assist among the huge network of participants.

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maxresdefaultMiloš F., 1975, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, still frame from a film, viewed via YouTube August 28 2016, <;

This image is a still from the Academy Award winning film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest from 1975. This is just one among many portrayals of psychiatric treatments that were regularly practised in the first half of the 20th century. This particular still features Patrick McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson, undergoing ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy, otherwise known as ‘Shock Therapy’, a treatment for severe psychiatric disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia. The treatment involves inducing seizures in a patient with the use of electric shocks to the brain. ECT is still in use today, as it theoretically remains a sound treatment for severe psychiatric illnesses, with 50% of patients being relieved of many of the more extreme symptoms of their disorder. ECT has been represented in the media in a considerably negative light, and greatly decreased in popularity following the release of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975 which depicted the treatment as cruel, torturous and overused. While many of the treatments for mental illness in the earlier 20th century are considered now to be completely inconclusive, barbaric and unethical, ECT in it’s more modern form is still a legitimate form of treatment for many sufferers. A description from SANE’s fact sheet on ECT reads:

” A general anaesthetic is given first, and then a small electric current is passed between two electrodes placed on the scalp. The brain works through complex electrical and chemical processes. These are affected by mental illnesses, so that they don’t work properly. Like medication, ECT works on these processes so that they operate more normally again and symptoms are reduced. There is now a clear body of scientific evidence that ECT is effective in improving depressive and psychotic symptoms. ”
SANE Australia, 2016, ECT Fact Sheet, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.

What is evident is the huge emotional impact depictions within the media can have on the public’s attitude toward a particular issue. Films like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Requiem for a Dream and A Beautiful Mind all depict past psychiatric treatments including ECT in an extremely negative light, and would have contributed to it’s negative reputation throughout society.



Leunig, M. 2016, cartoon, viewed August 28 2016, <;.

Michael Leunig is an Australian poet and cartoonist. Leunig is most famous for his cartoons that appear regularly in the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. Leunig’s work discusses relevant social and political issues as well as commentary on emotional and spiritual aspects of everyday life. Leunig’s cartoons are often ambiguous in their messages, due to the simple poetic nature of his artistic practice.

This particular cartoon explores increasing rate of depression in our society, but could be making many different points about this issue. It may be exploring the notion that those with lives saturated by constant news media can live depressed with the horror of our world. Rates of Depression and anxiety are at an all time high, which some attribute to a world so heavy with information and constant communication, many living in a constant fear of danger, crime or terror. Leunig is suggesting those of us that ignore reports on the world around us live in a blissful ignorance.

Leunig may also be using this cartoon to highlight that many living with depression suffer in silence, as it is in fact an invisible illness. Those ‘happy’ characters in the cartoon may live their lives unable to notice the suffering of their friends and family due to the nature of this horrible illness.



DiAntonio, A. 2014, illustration, It’s all In Your Head, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.

This image was found on Behance, an online archive of creative portfolios, created by a design student in Canada in 2014. I was particularly drawn to this image for it’s symbolism, and it’s exploration of the lack of understanding that is a very real social context for many suffering from mental illness. There is a strong social stigma that exists surrounding this issue, we are still in need of greater education and awareness surrounding mental health simply because it is so misunderstood and unrecognized in our society. The title of the work is ‘It’s all in your head’, which is one of the most common misconceptions surrounding mental illness particularly more common disorders such as anxiety and depression. Because these illnesses are ‘invisible’ and do not have more easily recorded physical symptoms as with other illnesses, they have not been prioritised in our health systems and many sufferers are unlikely to come forward to seek help due to the potential social reception of their actions.



1949, Photograph, Walter Freeman performing a lobotomy, <;.

When browsing an image archive that featured past psychiatric treatments and medicines, I came across this particular image of Walter Freeman performing a lobotomy on a patient in 1949.  Walter Freeman was an American physician who specialised in lobotomy and is renown for bringing the practice to America following it’s popularisation in Europe in the 40s. I felt instantly sick when I gazed upon this particular image, which pictures a huge number of people, some in suits, idly standing by in an unsanitised room as a woman receives a lobotomy without anaesthesia. Lobotomy is a now prohibited medical practice that aimed to “cure” patients of mental illness, which involved damaging the frontal lobe of the brain to sever neural pathways and therefore emotional response. Freeman became the spokesman of lobotomy and performed the act with a long metal instrument pushed through the eye socket into the front part of the brain. The practice essentially gave patients such severe brain damage that they were no longer able to have emotional outbursts, psychotic episodes or violent symptoms, because they were now essentially catatonic.

What is so horrifying about this image and many others that depict these archaic treatments of mental illness is that they remind us of a time, about half a century ago, where the stigmatisation of mental illness was so high due to the lack of education and understanding around this issue. Mental disorders were considered so taboo that families went to great lengths to hide it from their friends, sufferers were alienated from society and often had no control over their own fates; forced into treatments that violated so many basic human rights and showed a complete lack of understanding of medical health.


Getty Images, 2016, SANE Australia Mental Image Survey Results, Image 1, viewed 29 August 2016, <×349.gnfuzm.png/1457597699235.jpg&gt;.

Getty Images, 2016, SANE Australia Mental Image Survey Results, Image 3, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.

These two images were taken from a recent study conducted by SANE Australia in a bid to better understand the way we use images when reporting on mental illness in the media. The study invited those with experience of mental illness to assess how fair of a representation certain images were in relation to mental health and experience. The images were provided by Getty images and featured a wide array of subject matter.

These two images I have above are, in order, the most accurate representation and the least accurate representation of mental illness from this particular study. The first image features a young girl in a full colour photograph with a neutral expression, her background filled with black and white blurred images of various negative emotional states. This image was considered to be a fair depiction of experience with mental illness as it showed the potential hidden emotional turmoil that an individual can suffer from, while still remaining a normal, functioning member of society. It highlights the invisible nature of the illness and the fact that it can effect anyone.

The second image, considered to be the most detrimental to viewers’ understanding of a true representation of mental illness features a large pile of pills laid across a dictionary definition of ‘depression’. This image was considered to be harmful as it disassociated the illness from the individual, dehumanising the experience and removing the personal emotional side to these illnesses that is so important when educating others. The use of medication over the dictionary gave the impression that depression is merely defined by medication and required lots of prescribed treatments to be overcome.

SANE reported that it was extremely important for news bodies to be careful about the images that they use when reporting on mental illness, because wrongful depictions of these issues can lead to misunderstanding the personal struggle and the stigmatization of mental health as a problem facing many today.


charnley_self_portrait_series_02Charnley, B. 1991, Painting, Self Portrait Series Number 2, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.

This image above is a piece of art from 1991 by Bryan Charnley, a British painter who’s work vividly explores the experience of schizophrenia. Charnley’s most famous works, Self Portrait Series from 1991 were painted while reducing his prescribed medication over a series of weeks, which culminated in his death by suicide. Between March and April of 1991, Charnley painted 17 portraits, some realistic and some extremely abstract in response to his schizophrenic understanding of self. This image above is the second portrait in the series, with strong similarities to the first, but the head pictured is surrounded by dark squiggles, a rabbit ear and large eye. The symbols in this painting are a response to the increase in paranoia and ‘voices’ that come as Charnley starts to reduce his medication. This visualisation of Schizophrenia gives us a unique insight into how it must feel to suffer from this mental illness. The series was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London after Charnley’s death. It reveals that so many people suffer in silence with their mental health and often we are only aware of the extent of the issue until it is too late.


Unknown Artist, Viewed via Pinterest 29 August 2016, <;.

I found this little comic on Pinterest as I was scouring the web for images. It really resonated with me because I felt that it was such an excellent representation of the lack of understanding that exists surrounding depression and many other mental illnesses. Due to the invisible nature of depression, many who are inexperienced with it’s horrors are often quick to tear down victims, suggesting that they merely ‘get over it’, ‘forget about it’, ‘be happy’ or ‘lighten up’. Belittling these horrible illnesses and suggesting that sufferers experiences can be easily fixed is hugely detrimental to finding a solution. If we bombard those experiencing mental illness with these unhelpful words then we are often worsening the issue and deterring victims from speaking up about their situation.


Ubhi, D. 2013, Time to Change Advertising Campaign, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.

This is a promotional poster for UK Non-for-profit Time To Change, an organisation that focuses primarily on ending the stigma that surrounds mental illness. This image is part of a series that features famous faces such as actors, musicians, sportspeople and comedians that suffer from a range of mental illnesses. The series hopes to break down stereotypes surrounding mental illness that suggest that those that suffer from these horrible disorders are defined by their mental state. These posters, such as this above that features the multi-talented Stephen Fry reveals that individuals can live with mental illness and still make wonderful contributions to society. Time For Change are showing that mental illness is more widespread than we might originally believe, and needs to be an issue that we discuss openly and regularly.


2010, Mental Health Foundation, Mindfulness Advertising Campaign, viewed 30 August 2016, <;.

This poster is from an advertising campaign from the Mental Health Foundation in the UK 2010. The award winning series highlights the benefits of the modern meditation technique of mindfulness can have on us living in our high media and work saturated 21st century world. The photographic series features individuals who’s heads are weighed down with the burden of work, children and other stress. Like the previous advertising campaign above by Time for Change, this image focuses on normalising mental illness and breaking down the stigmas associated with stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is a highly regarded form of self-initiated treatment that is probably not as well known as it should be. Raising awareness of this form of treatment is a really important step in eradicating the suffering of mental illness.

2016, SANE, Picture This: How Australians picture mental illness, survey results, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.


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