post 8: brainstorming possibilities for a design response

Sunny Lai

So far, I have found the processes undertaken during this subject to be helpful but also confusing. Conducting secondary research has helped provide a foundational level of understanding of the area, and also given me an idea of which issues are being discussed and which people find particularly important. Brainstorming, both collaboratively and individually, has been helpful in idea generation: I was able to get an idea of how broad the topic was and how many possible areas of focus there were. Brainstorming provided a vast array of possible focusses from which to choose, and also built a landscape of the issue.

However, the extensive mapping and brainstorming exercises were also confusing due to how repetitive they were; the different exercises each week all seemed quite similar. Furthermore, I feel that we have been doing a lot of research, but the end goal of this research has not been dicussed very much in class. This has led to a feelings of confusion and aimlessness.

Nonetheless, it appears we have arrived at the end goal of the research: designing a response to the issue.

The following is my five-point summary of possible design responses that I have identified.

1. Destigmatising the seeking of treatment for mental health
One of the biggest issues with the stigmatisation of mental health is that it delays, or prevents, people from seeking treatment for their problems. The societal stigma against mental health can lead to people being unwilling to admit they have a problem, or unwilling to discuss it with others. This can delay or prevent recovery.

2. Treating mental health the same way as physical health is treated
Physical health treated very differently to mental health. There is far less stigma against physical health problems and physical illnesses; most people have a basic understanding of how to deal with physical health problems and were taught some elements of first aid starting from when they were quite young; physical health problems are less likely than mental health problems to consume the identity of the sufferer. I believe that treating and viewing mental issues the same way that physical issues are treated would have a positive impact and a design that helped bring about this shift in perception would be a good idea.

3. More awareness of mental illnesses that aren’t depression and anxiety
While mental health awareness has increased in recent times, the focus is heavily on depression and anxiety and other disorders (e.g. OCD, schizophrenia, etc.) are ignored and relatively little is known about them.

4. Scraping the web for personal tales
For those who have not experienced mental illness themselves, the idea of mentally ill people can seem hard to understand and/or threatening. A design which incorporates the personal perspectives and voices of the mentally ill could help to humanise mental illness and those suffering from it, bringing about more understanding and empathy.

5. Destigmatising mental illness in men
One possible area of focus is that of men’s mental health. Due to traditional ideas of masculinity, it is often considered undesirable and shameful for men to show emotions and weakness. This means that men who suffer from mental health may suffer more silently than women, and are quite possibly less likely to seek treatment or engage with a support network.

Draft proposal

My draft proposal focuses on the first point: destigmatising the seeking of treatment and support for mental health. One of the difficult things about seeking treatment and support is in admitting one has a problem, and in actually reaching out (e.g. calling a phone line, booking an appointment, talking to a friend).

My proposal falls within the realm of service design. I propose an interactive web experience that lowers the barriers for seeking treatment.

The site is presented as something the user can access if they are feeling down/anxious/bad/etc., or if they feel they are having a mental issue. The user would fill out a questionnaire in which they could provide various responses (e.g. multiple choice, free form response). The site would use these responses to provide a variety of results, depending on what the user wishes to see/do, e.g. show suggested diagnosis; show short term ways to feel better; send an email to a confidant (this could be a friend whose email is provided by the respondent, or a stranger who has signed up on the site as a willing confidant); make a phone call (this would involve something like Skype integration) to a helpline.