Why is the deadliest mental illness the least funded and most ignored?

Jordan Evans
Blog Post 8

Having undertaken weeks of mapping, brainstorming, and researching on the topic of mental health, we moved on to begin brainstorming possibilities for formulating a design response to our issue.

I am placing my focus on the difficult access to care and recovery for those suffering from anorexia nervosa. Having personally been suffering from this illness for over six years it is something that I am deeply passionate about, with a rich understanding of the complexities of the issue. Fortunately, I was able to access inpatient treatment within a hospital facility to aid my recovery, however for so many this is not reality. Our current health care system and governmental bodies, as well as misconceptions and stigmas, make it difficult for someone suffering from the disease to recover, as outlined in my previous blog post ‘issues and controversies surrounding mental health.’

This trailer for ‘Just Eat,’ a documentary that asks why the deadliest mental illness is the most ignored and least funded, beautifully encapsulates the controversies and frustrations surrounding this issue.

To be able to begin brainstorming possibilities for a design response, we must first define a problem statement. Producing a very detailed, concise and refined issue area will allow for a focus to form propositions for intervention.

Defining the problem statement:

Who does the problem affect?

  • individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa
  • girls AND boys
  • primarily 16-25 year olds
  • the families of those suffering
  • hospitals – not accepting the patients
  • government – not providing enough funding to accommodate and fix this problem
  • GPs – telling patients they are not sick enough for care
  • counsellors and psychiatrists – dealing with distraught patients

What are the boundaries of the problem?

  • bar for entry into the state-run hospital system is rising so you must be sicker and sicker to access care
  • physical health is seen as more important that mental health
  • lack of funding from government
  • stigma and lack of understanding about the illness
  • expensive treatment
  • difficult illness to treat
  • people not believing it is a serious issue or real illness
  • axing of current services such as the butterfly foundation helpline
  • negative experiences with facilities/resources/professionals
  • must be under a certain weight/BMI to be admitted to hospital
  • long recovery process
  • pro-ana community – something that is so easy to access and get stuck within which promotes the opposite to recovery, as opposed to treatment which is so difficult to access

When does the problem occur? When does it need to be fixed?

  • when patients try to access care as an inpatient
  • when patients are pushed away from treatment or told that they are not sick enough
  • when people suffering from anorexia are told to lose more weight to get help

Where does the problem occur?

  • Sydney
  • Australia
  • City and rural areas
  • within our hospital system

Why is it important?

  • people are dying
  • anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder


Problem Statement

males and females (18-24) struggling with anorexia nervosa find it difficult to access care for treatment due to low funding and priority in Australia’s health care system and high, ill-advised requirements for admission.


Possibilities for a design proposal

Once I had finalised my problem statement it was time to start to develop potential design responses to this focus issue – in the form of a service design, generative system or data visualisation.

Before I began brainstorming I set myself the question:
‘What is it that you are trying to achieve with this design response?’
This allowed me to have a clear goal of the function of my design response; which, after some consideration, I decided would centre around the goal of raising awareness and understanding. My problem statement is based on the difficult access to care for those struggling with anorexia; due to low funding from the government, eating disorder care being a low priority in Australia’s health care system as well as high, ill-advised requirements for admission. I believe that all of these factors are caused by a lack of knowledge and understanding about the illness, and therefore a mentality and misconception that it is not a serious disease, and is not as important as physical health issues. This is what I will strive to target in my design response. I am not trying to treat people with anorexia, but instead striving to start the conversation about anorexia to debunk the misunderstandings of the illness and challenge the fact that it is not recognised as a severe public health problem. I want people to understand anorexia is a dangerous neurobiological disease in order to overcome stigmas and misconceptions, to ultimately save lives. This newfound comprehension of the illness could force stakeholders to reconsider Australia’s current approach to care and their perspectives of anorexia, which could change the way that sufferers are able to recover and access treatment.

Below is my brainstorm that outlines five possible routes for potential design responses:





Trailer for the ‘Just Eat’ documentary:
James B. Barnes, 2016. Most Of The 30 Million People With This Deadly Mental Illness Aren’t Receiving Treatment, Are You?, WordPress, <http://thoughtcatalog.com/james-b-barnes/2015/03/most-of-the-4-million-people-with-this-deadly-mental-illness-arent-receiving-treatment-are-you/>.