The process of collaborating on several issue map exercises was undertaken across several weeks. The role of which was to augment and consolidate previous work with a refined and specific focal point on the problems within mental health. Whilst the content of these maps did tend to overlap, the manner through which the various approaches were presented allowed for fresh perspectives and ideation.
What I learnt:
August marked the beginning of semester and presumably also the starting point of our research into mental health for each of us. Despite this shared period, it immediately became apparent that previous conceptions of and experiences with mental health has a pivotal role in influencing our individual understandings and interpretations of the issue.
An intriguing consequence of these exercises was the level of self-reflection they promoted. The process of divulging and discussing alternative perspectives and beliefs prompts you to confront your own and contemplate the ideologies that have influenced the development of another’s perspectives and beliefs.
The most insightful mapping iteration involved the entire class, in small groups, using all the research we had gathered on mental health, to list all the possible word associations we could imagine. These responses were then laid out alongside one another for the entire issue group to observe. This mapping exercise had the most significant impact, not because of any revolutionary developments or approaches, but through the sheer volume of response.
Such a vast collection of words, some of which I had never thought to consider, had a fairly emotive impact upon me. Words such as meaningless, delusional, uncertainty and suppression in particular resounded with me. They had not arisen during our small group discussions, and yet when reading them on the table I instantly felt recognition.
To associate mental health with terms such as meaningless and delusional reflects the continued stigmatisation of society towards the disorders. The connection could then be drawn that mental health is irrelevant, inconsequential or incomparable to the concept of physical health.
While some may consider the use of such terms as inconsequential, what it truly does is affirm the belief in individuals of all walks of life, that those who struggle with their mental health are weak, liars or whingers. Essentially, people who refuse to simply get on with life and deal with the lot they are given. This further implies that mental disorders are a choice, and therefore people can simply wake up one morning and decide not to be ill anymore.
How it informs approach:
Mental health is such a complex issue due to its significant presence within personal and societal contexts. Each of which feature a variety of endemic problems and controversies. By deliberately undertaking an iterative process across an extended period of time there has been a significant broadening of awareness. Through this it has been possible to more accurately map the vast extent of actors and stakeholders in the field of mental health.
Having begun working with mapping exercises several weeks ago, there are several actors with a recurring presence, but also those whose presence is gradually being revealed through discussion and fresh perspectives. For instance, when first plotting the most significant stakeholders, as a group we had not considered the role of pharmaceutical companies and their potential influence on hospitals, doctors and institutions in the name of profits rather than beneficial treatment.
A significant benefit apparent from repeatedly collaborating, discussing and refining these maps, has been the realisation of the continual improvement in understanding that inevitably evolves. Such a process can easily be applied to the development of proposals within the emergent practice context.
Possibilities for action to create change:
This mapping process has emphasised the direct link between improvement in mental health through communities and the continued existence and prevalence of stigma.
“Stigma: A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” [Oxford Dictionaries 2016]
Whether contemplating service availability, willingness to seek out treatment, funding distribution, appropriate treatment methods or any other aspect of mental health, it can be argued that a significant hindrance upon future development and improvement stems from the general public belief that mental health issues are wrong, unimportant or the responsibility of the individual to fix.
Any significant, impactful or withstanding change will require gradual progress and enduring efforts. Humans as a collective rarely concede to change their personal ideologies to agree upon a single belief or value. Through offering the opportunity for open and honest discussion on the realities of mental health issues, the standardised norms of society may eventually be adjusted. By developing a more inclusive understanding of what it is to be human, it may then become easier to admit to differences and supposed faults, which will then allow for more effective and efficient treatments.
Oxford Dictionaries 2016, Oxford University Press, New York, viewed 14 August 2016, <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/>
– Alexandra Macoustra