I am.

Jordan Evans
Blog Post 10

The feedback session that was undertaken amongst my small work group provided valuable insights, perspectives and challenges which exposed areas of refinement for my design proposal.

When talking through my draft proposal with my group it became apparent that I was trying to achieve too much by aiming to solve such a large problem area. As a group member eloquently put it ‘we are not trying to change the world.’
My original 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” – involved too many aspects of this issue that I was trying to target. And by intervening with each of these areas in my design proposal I was trying to:
increase knowledge and understanding of the illness,
so that stigmas and misconceptions could be overcome,
so that people understand that it is a serious disease,
so that it is taken as seriously as physical health issues,
so that stakeholders reconsider Australia’s current approach to care,
so that more funding will be provided by the government,
so that sufferers are able to recover and access treatment.
I was trying to change the world.

With this realisation, I strove to form a much more refined and niche problem statement, only targeting one tiny aspect out of the many that I had addressed above. Reflecting back on my weeks of researching and brainstorming, and reading through my previous blog posts, I came to an issue that I was most invested in. Reflecting on the issue, it is something that I have personally been affected by and frustrated with for years. Why it had not been apparent to me to focus on may have been due to the nature of the issue itself.

Refined problem statement:

Society’s misconceptions of anorexia nervosa makes sufferers feel isolated and unwilling to speak out about their illness

Anorexia nervosa is a neurobiological disease that is often misunderstood by society. Many people believe that it is just young teenage girls wanting to be skinny, and don’t understand what the illness really means or the complexities involved, or why the illness can manifest in the first place.”Anorexia is often dismissed as faddy eating gone too far or a lifestyle choice of the young and privileged. Some people believe anorexics are just attention seeking, or that they are slimming to look like celebrities. None of which accurately describes the serious and complex mental illness anorexia actually is. The most common misconception is that it is a purposeful pursuit that the person can in some way stop and control. What happens then is that person then feels very locked in without help and it becomes very difficult to treat.” (Kentish, F. 2015)

These societal misconceptions are very damaging to someone suffering from the illness. Someone with anorexia is then hesitant to speak out about their illness because they are afraid that they will be judged and misunderstood. It is, therefore, harder to access help and sufferers are usually left feeling isolated and alone. There has been many a moment where I have heard other sufferers say the phrase “I just wish people understood.”

I will strive to target a greater understanding of the illness in my design proposal. This increased knowledge will help support sufferers of this insidious disease.

Having gained this clearer direction I was then able to answer the questions that my group members had asked me during our feedback session that previously proved too difficult:
Who is the target audience? My design proposal would be targeted at individuals who are not suffering from anorexia and who do not have much knowledge about the illness.
What is the first impact and response that you want? I want my design to allow sufferers to speak out about their illness and gain help without the fear of being judged. I want my design to educate those who do not have much knowledge about anorexia so that they are able to understand those who are suffering, and provide some informed support or simply compassion and understanding.

 


Revised Design Proposition

Project Title: I am.

Practice Type: Generative system

The Issue: Society’s misconceptions of anorexia nervosa makes sufferers feel isolated and unwilling to speak out about their illness

The Possible Change: An individual suffering from anorexia nervosa having the ability to reach out to someone without the fear that they will be misunderstood or judged.

The Design Action to Support the Change: This generative design intervention collects insights, both from those suffering from anorexia, and those who are not suffering and do not have much knowledge about the illness. An online data collection forum will ask those who are not suffering from the illness to provide their thoughts about anorexia, their perspectives on the illness and what they think the illness means. It will also ask those who are suffering from anorexia what are the helpful things that others can do to support and help them. From this collection of data, a book will be produced – almost a handbook of the illness. It will function as a debunking of society’s misconceptions and uninformed perspectives of the illness. The book will feature one sentence on each page. In the first half of the book, the left-hand page will read “I AM NOT…” and include a perspective of someone not suffering from the illness collected from the generative system, such as “a young girl aspiring to look like a celebrity.” On the right-hand page, it will read “I AM….” and include factual information about the illness that challenges the opposite misconception. In the second half of the book, the left-hand page will read “DO NOT…” and include things that others do that might negatively affect our illness or recovery, such as “get frustrated when I’m eating slowly.” And on the opposing page it will read “DO….” and include positive and helpful things that others can do to support someone with anorexia, collected from the generative system, such as “be patient to help me finish.” Part of the education and complexity of the disease is that it is different for every person that experiences it. With this in mind, there will also be pages that sufferers could fill out themselves with things that may specifically apply to them (if they choose to).

This educational tool could then be something that a sufferer could give to a friend or family to open up about their illness and be confident in not being misunderstood or judged. The first section of the book explains ‘this is how I feel,’ and the second section explains ‘this is how you can help me.’ It can be terrifying to open up and tell someone that you are suffering from a mental illness, such as anorexia nervosa, especially when it carries such negative and misinformed connotations that have been developed by society. This book could aid this process, with the sufferer able to let others know what is happening without having to explain themselves or even say anything, just simply handing over a book for the other person to read. This book can give sufferers the confidence to reach out for help. The design can inform others about anorexia, and possibly challenge their preconceived perspectives of the illness, and also allow them to provide informed support to those who are suffering.

The book could also be used as a communication tool between family members –  parents could give it to other family members so that they can understand the situation. For example, it was particularly hard for the older generations of my family to understand what I was going through and why I was going to hospital. This book could have been a useful aid to explain to them what the illness means and entails. The book could also be provided in school classrooms to educate students about the illness, or could sit in doctors waiting rooms to provide knowledge and awareness and to debunk stigmas and misconceptions surrounding the illness. This design proposition could start the conversation.

 

 

 


References:

Kentish, F. 2015. The Stigma Around Anorexia Needs To Stop and Heres Why, Metro, accessed 18th September 2016, <http://metro.co.uk/2015/09/18/the-stigma-around-anorexia-needs-to-stop-and-heres-why-5383388/?ito=facebook&gt;.