POST 10: Reflection and Revised Proposal
My brain was in mapping mode, my creative process had become the cycle of map, discuss, blog, repeat and I was getting comfortable with the simplicity of these tasks. I was ignoring the fact that in the next week I was supposed to have developed a design proposal and started thinking about the final coming weeks. While I knew completely what was coming, I acted totally offended that this subject blindsided me. ‘How could they just expect us to draw up a design proposal out of no where?!’ But really I have always known I’m an incredibly indecisive and also self-critical person, and the countless painful mindmaps I constructed in the lead up to my first proposal were getting me nowhere. I had always been a huge fan of interactive, site specific art installations, and seemed to be pushing myself in this general direction, without caring whether it was relevant to the Emergent practices we were engaging with.
The proposal I ran by my peers in our small class discussion wasn’t particularly confident, wasn’t particularly refined and while I went to sleep the night before happy with my ideas, I woke up certain that they needed to be revised. My classmates were supportive of the idea, and encouraged me that it had elements that were relevant and that could be pursued. However, it was discussion with my peers about their own proposals that started to get me thinking about the different ways we can connect people and raise awareness without actually needing to have some sort of live feed of communication. I was stuck in the idea that whatever my proposal, because I was interested in rural mental health for young people, I needed to find some grand solution that connected these young people, with urban spaces, with friends, with family, with other young people. It wasn’t until one of my peers pointed it out that I realised that this subject wasn’t about picking a colossal issue like Mental Illness and attempting to solve it, but was about using unique and modern design practises to provoke discussion and raise awareness in relation to said issue. I needed to stop putting pressure on myself to come up with an idea that was the be all and end all.
While I had a proposal I had prepared for this week, I got cold feet and couldn’t bare to express it to my tutor, completely unravelling the idea in my mind from the moment I woke up to that very moment in class. I was very good at talking myself out of things. However, the class discussions really made me realise that while my idea might have a nice sentiment, it could be clearer, more interesting and far simpler if I just revised it.
I went back to the texts I was reading, reopened my 48 tabs that were slowing my ancient laptop immensely and tried to get to the crux of what I am most interested in and specifically how I want to approach this issue. Youth Mental Health in rural Australia is an extremely broad topic, and I noticed myself continually being drawn to various explanations from psychologists and politicians and scholars about what it is that causes such extreme risk of suicide and high rates of mental illness in these isolated areas. While the primary explanation is the lack of medical facilities, let alone those that provide mental health treatments, there are other factors that contribute including the burden of social isolation, the harshness and disaster of the land, and the lack of privacy in a ‘small town culture’. However, I was continually drawn to the culture of resilience and stoicism that exists in rural Australia and how such perceptions of humanity can be a huge detriment to those suffering from mental illness who might need to be reaching out to seek help. I was fascinated with the history of this culture, where it started and why it is perpetually woven into the socialisation of young people living in rural and regional Australia.
Issue: The image of ‘The Rural Australian’ for as long as we know it has been hard-working, resilient, self-sufficient and stoic figure in our history. Developing, with the help of colonial creative histories such as art and poetry, the legend of those who work on the land has generated a expectation of stability and strength for rural Australians. A culture of self-reliance has discouraged individuals from putting up their hand when they are suffering from mental distress. The expectation that one will ‘just get on with it’ or ‘do it on your own’ has been a contributing factor in the fact that young Australian’s living in rural and regional areas are at the highest risk of mental illness and suicide. The poetry of Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson has long been an enormous part of white history and the development of the legend of the ‘Outback Drover’ and men and women of the bush. In Henry Lawson’s 1899 work, How the Land Was Won, he writes:
They toiled and they fought through the shame of it –
Through wilderness, flood, and drought…
…The miseries suffered, unvoiced, unknown –
And that’s how the land was won.
Here we can see Lawson’s construction of the Australian bushman archetype, an image of stoicism who’s courage is measured in his silence. This harmful perception of rural Australians has perpetuated a harmful culture amongst rural communities for centuries.
Young Australian’s living in rural and regional communities lack role models that exist on a spectrum of emotion and expression. Many of these young people may have been socialised to believe that this culture is the only way to deal with mental illness. There does not exist a real collection of role models that normalise the idea of seeking help and inform youth that it is essential and not stigmatised to reach out when times are tough.
In this project I hope to help young people living in rural and regional Australia to rewrite a new image of what it means to be who they are. Create a wide and varied representation of young people in rural communities that speaks to their insecurities, their weaknesses, their worries and their demons. To tap into the creative brains of 18-24 year olds and ask them to show us what hurts them in order to reveal humanise the age old expectation of stoicism that contradicts the current state of mental health for this part of Australia. I hope to create a database that is a collection of words, poems, stories and drawings that respond to the query; ‘What worries you?’ in order to unravel the stigma that exists around voicing your inner turmoil and seeking help.
Design Action to Support Change:
A carefully curated collection of creative works that challenge the culture of stoicism and resilience that has been perpetuated in rural Australia through our colonial creative histories. Organised online with the ability for individuals to browse based on medium and location and read and view the real image of young rural Australia.
Lawson, H. 1899, How the Land Was Won, accessed at: <http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/lawson-henry/how-the-land-was-won-0022013>.