POST TEN – THE DESIGN PROPOSAL

After thorough consideration of the issue at hand and feedback gained from the draft proposal workshop last week, I was able to make informed decisions to ultimately refine my design proposal. I had the advantageous point of being organised into a group of three, enabling me with useful feedback from not one but two peers. This allowed me to gather insights from a variety of perspectives and understand how I could start to refine my design proposal.

Within this class exercise, I came to realise just how important is is that my design proposal is successfully understood and received by the particular stakeholders and actors. Certain suggestions came from both peers that really resonated with me and have proved to inform changes within my design proposal. Such suggestions included consolidating the broadness of mental illnesses to depression which is most apparent in rural and remote areas of Australia. By focusing on this I was able to get some great references that support the desperate need for a reduction in societal stigma surrounding mental health within rural and remote areas and how this reduction may benefit the issue of mental health within these small communities.

Project Title: Spot the Difference

Practice Type: Service Design

The Issue: There is a glaring societal stigma surrounding mental health with an evident derogatory nature, particularly within rural and remote areas of Australia. The overall presence of mental illness is broadly similar in rural and urban Australia, however the suicide rate is considerably higher in rural and remote areas. This can be largely attributed to a combination of factors; accessibility and availability of services, economic factors, distance and isolation, and societal/cultural attitudes. The prevailing Australian cultural ‘She’ll be ‘right’ attitude towards mental health within rural Australia has lead to a subsequent lack of acknowledgement and care for such illnesses without ‘physical symptoms’. There is a dire need for an increase in mental illness recognition within such rural and remote areas in which these attitudes are most prominent. With such attitudes being inflicted upon the younger generation in these small communities, a vicious cycle of neglect is emerging, only adding to the incessant societal stigma surrounding mental health.

The Possible Change: It is without a doubt that Australia’s attitude towards mental health needs to be readjusted, especially the blasé attitudes so pertinent in rural and remote Australia. Ultimately, there needs to be a change in the societal stigma that surrounds mental health, that change being a significant reduction in said stigma. Though there are other important factors that contribute to the rising levels of suicide and depression within rural and remote areas (as listed above), by intervening and influencing a change in the youths predisposition there is hope to eradicate, or even reduce, societies stigma towards mental health. With young minds being at their most impressionable state between the ages of 8-12, this presents the opportunity to impart certain attitudinal characteristics and behaviours towards addressing the issue of mental health. By prompting conversation amongst this age group their is the potential to create safe environments in which help-seeking behaviours are encouraged and sufferers are integrated into a cohesive society.

The Design Action: Spot the Difference will aim to promote sensitive and appropriate conversations about the issue of mental health, ultimately changing societal attitudes and behaviours towards the issue through phrases and word association. The design action involves pairing two optional responses with a certain phrase in which someone suffering from depression may say. The two optional responses consist of one being the most appropriate and sensitive, the other being stereotypical of the ‘She’ll be ‘right’ Australian culture. By drawing on the popular children puzzles Spot the Difference, the design action revolves around the idea that the children partaking should be able to distinguish between the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ responses. Two illustrations will be displayed aside one another that appear indifferent, yet the responses below will be the two opposing. The illustrations will be line drawings that invite the children partaking in the exercise to colour in the pictures according to the emotions and level of sensitivity of the responses below. By being both interactive and recognisable as a popular puzzle, the design hopes to be exciting and engaging while also encouraging these youths to dismiss the ‘She’ll be ‘right’ blasé attitude evident in their surrounding society, and assume a more sensitive approach to the topic of mental health.

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References

Mental health in rural areas. 2015. The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ranzcp.org/Publications/Rural-psychiatry/Mental-health-in-rural-areas.aspx. [Accessed 20 September 2016].

PATHWAYS OF RECOVERY: PREVENTING FURTHER EPISODES OF MENTAL ILLNESS – Rural and remote communities. 2016. Australian Government Department of Health. [ONLINE] Available at: http://health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-p-mono-toc~mental-pubs-p-mono-pop~mental-pubs-p-mono-pop-rur. [Accessed 20 September 2016].

The Huffington Post. 2016. Blokes, If We Don’t Stop Saying ‘She’ll Be Right’, We Won’t Be. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/joel-feren/blokes-if-we-dont-stop-saying-shell-be-right-we-wont-be/. [Accessed 20 September 2016].

Commonwealth of Australia. 2016. KidsMatter. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/. [Accessed 20 September 2016].

 

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POST EIGHT – BRAINSTORMING THE POSSIBILITIES

Over the past several weeks we have developed an in depth understanding of our issues, yet there is still an obvious vastness to the issues that surround mental health. It is therefore now time to hone in on and generate intimate discussions with certain issues that resonate exceptional importance with us uniquely and individually. By brainstorming the possibilities individually, then discussing, deciphering and critiquing as a group appropriate and effective responses can be developed.

Initially, the brainstorming process begun as an individual exercise in which we were to focus on our chosen problem and make executive decisions, choices and answers in regards to the nitty-gritty; the who, what, when, where and why of our problem. In choosing a problem I found it significantly important to choose something that resonates with me due to both personal relevance and empirical nature. The particulars of my chosen issue are noted below:

Who does the problem effect: Suffering youths in rural and remote communities that are both unsupportive and unaware.

What are the boundaries of the problem: Societal stigma and the inability of such rural and remote communities to acknowledge and address the reality of mental illness. Mental health needs to be acknowledged as a sickness, indistinguishable to that of physical health.

Where does the problem occur: Rural and remote communities with the overall prevalence of mental illness being broadly similar to that of urban Australia, however the suicide rate is considerably higher.

Why is it important: Attention and care is needed when addressing the issue of mental health in rural and remote areas in order to reduce societal stigma and encourage help-seeking behaviours to ultimately create a cohesive society in which conversations about mental health are promoted.

An interesting exercise taken from this individual / collaborative brainstorming was the process in discovering the particular ‘why’ of our chosen problem and how it will ultimately influence the possibilities for our design response. Initially the why of my problem was resonating more significantly as the what. We were then forced to keep questioning each other why such significance and importance existed finally discovering it’s truest substance.

Five-point summary:

1. The issue of mental illness is extremely vast which only encourages us to increase our intimacy with certain problems and particular scenarios.

2. Because of such vastness and delicate nature of the issue of mental health it is extremely important to choose a problem that resonates with you on a personal level.

3. An in depth understanding of ‘why’ my said issue is so important is fundamental when discovering an appropriate and successful design response.

4. Constant discussion leading to the generation of feedback is extremely important when refining my design response.

5. Youths are extremely impressionable and therfore a crucial stakeholder in my issue

With the above five-point summary kept in mind, my draft proposal is as follows:

To create a supportive environment and cohesive society surrounding those youths suffering from mental illnesses and/or disorders in rural and remote communities. It is important to acknowledge the substantial difference of suicide prevalence in rural and remote communities, compared to that of urban Australia. By promoting conversation about mental health and encouraging help-seeking behaviours, such apparent societal stigma aims to be significantly reduced with said sufferers being successfully integrated into a cohesive society.

 

POST SEVEN – ISSUE MAPPING

In order to gain further insight into the issue of Mental Health and fully understand its complete vastness, issue mapping with group members was not only essential but also extremely effective. By dissecting the issue of Mental Health on a controversial basis, we were able to decipher past, present and potential future matters and how we may assist and even solve such matters.

By initially centralising our individual maps to certain human or non-human actors we were able to develop certain scenarios that may eventuate in relation to Mental Health. Influences of change, for example, became the centre point of my individual map with such ‘influences’ including celebrities, people, society, culture, digital media, print media and social media. These influences or driving forces of change proved paramount when then developing our issues maps as a group.

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Such controversies were discussed in relation to each individual group members focal point within the issue of Mental Health. This proved extremely insightful and compelling as certain controversies were brought forward that others, including myself, had not yet recognised or acknowledged. It is interesting to understand what is important to others and what is disregarded or thought as less controversial.

Through analysing and generating further discussion it is apparent that Mental Health is very important and of high substance to all of us in unique ways. These mapping processes therefore prove to further inform our future decisions and potential solutions as we are able to gain such intrinsic feedback and develop meaningful, powerful conversation.

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By collaborating our individually formed maps based on singular actors, both human and non-human, our ideas on mental health, with its naturally multi-faceted nature, were able to be transcended. With each member offering a unique idea, opinion and view point in regards to particular niche topics within the broader cloud of Mental Health, the mapping exercise empowered us with a triumphant sense of knowledge on the issue, with new, deeper, richer meaning.

Amy Lomax

POST SIX – WEB SCRAPING: DATA EXTRACTION & COLLECTION

Social media data is clearly the largest, richest and most dynamic evidence base of human behaviour, bringing new opportunities to understand individuals, groups and society. Such data generated by social media platforms (in this case Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) can be used to support social research and analysis by providing indications of information seeking behaviour and public opinions. Social media platforms are therefore positioned to provide a variety of useful data sources in relation to the issue of Mental Health. This includes:

  • Indications of public reactions
  • Insight into public experiences
  • Ways of measuring overall public attention and/or awareness
  • Ways of measuring general social trends of importance
  • Insight into the sources of public opinion (where are people getting their information)

Social media may be defined as websites or other internet based services where the content being communicated is created by the people who use the service. Unlike, for example, a news website, where the content is created by a journalistic and editorial staff for mass consumption, on social media sites there is no clear cut separation between producer and consumer. Websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow essentially everyone to create the same kind of content, yet users seem to structure their interaction with social media sites in different ways.

Social media constitutes an arena where the issues of the day are frequently debated and where opinions can be formed on a wide range of topics. Through extracting and collecting the data from an advanced Twitter search and translating this information into an easily comprehensible spreadsheet certain trends, opinions and focal points became apparent within the issue of Mental Health. By searching the words Mental Health with an optional search based around stigma and/or society it was interesting to reveal both the negative and positive connotations surrounding Mental Health on social media.

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By centralising my search to the hashtag#ItsOkayToTalk I was able to gain insight into varying human behaviours and public opinions in regards to this campaign. Seeing as most of us can’t spend more than 30 seconds without checking social media, it wasn’t hard to notice the streams of men from around the world posting pictures holding up the universal ‘okay’ hand gesture with the hashtag #ItsOkayToTalk. The posts are part of a social media movement, headed up by Irish Rugby Star Luke Ambler, who started the campaign to raise awareness for men’s mental illness and suicide, after his brother-in-law took his own life last year. There are a handful of factors that come in to play here, including stigma, embarrassment and shame, but the consensus among social media users is that it is crucial the hashtag#ItsOkayToTalk not be reduced to another viral social media campaign but that people actually engage in what the hashtag is trying to bring forward.

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By reviewing tweets from users who publicly mentioned their diagnosis and by looking for language cues linked to mental health, we are able to quickly and inexpensively collect new data on mental illnesses and/or disorders. Through focusing on the stigma surrounding mental health and how society can either contribute or reduce said stigma, a number of campaigns became apparent such as #ImNotAshamed, #EndTheStigma, #SickNotWeak and #CommitCampaign. These four trending hashtags all have the dignifying aim to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage those suffering to speak out and share there story.

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It is evident within the data collected and extracted through Twitter Archives and Data Pipelines that there is a plea for reduced stigma surrounding Mental Health. This plea comes from varying stakeholders concerned with the issue of Mental Health, be it friends or family, health professionals, teachers, government and those suffering themselves. Such campaigns and trends are generated, hyped up and discussed at length, yet this must be combined with intervention and preventative measures.

Although the above data sets contribute a valuable and unique source of information in relation to uncovering the dense issue of Mental Health, caution is needed when interpreting such data. The above social media data should be “benchmarked” against other data sources, such as the secondary research into journal entries and scholarly articles conducted in previous blog posts.

5 insights learnt from the above web scraping:

  1. Data scraping Social Media is extremely relevant and effective in gaining a richer, deeper and more dynamic understanding of human behaviours and public opinions
  2. Social media provides a unique opportunity to develop preventative and intervention measures in relation to the issue of mental health as such social media platforms can be used to reveal indications of public reactions, experiences, attention and awareness
  3. There are both negative and positive connotations on social media surrounding those suffering from mental illnesses and/or disorders
  4. Various mental health campaigns geared towards raising awareness, reducing stigma and encouraging conversation need to be transcended past the stage of a viral social media campaign to something of more substance
  5. Such data sets as the above need to be compared with and analysed against varying other methods of data collection both primary and secondary

 

Amy Lomax

POST THREE – MAPPING THE STAKEHOLDERS AND CONSTRUCTING AN IMAGE ARCHIVE

Both stakeholders and actors play a very distinct role in shaping, changing and influencing the issue of mental health. In order to develop a deeper understanding and hone in on particular insights these stakeholders and actors (both human and non-human), and their relationship with the issue and one another, has been carefully assessed and mapped.

Past research into secondary sources has given us only a glimpse into the issue of mental health. In order to understand how human and non-human involvement can impact upon various factors stemming from mental health, stakeholders and actors, such as people, objects and influences of change, were dissected and analysed.

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By working from a broader perspective to eventually focusing on the finite details, the cohesion and multiple layers of connectivity became apparent, with those who experience mental illness and/or disorder being right at the centre. To me, this demonstrates the importance of a cohesive society and the necessity of empathy and compassion within said cohesive society.

Images can often provide that something more than text; something richer, more sensitive and more emotive, especially when referring to the issue of mental health. It was quite rare that within my in depth contextual research, I came across an article or scholarly source that moved me in a way the above images do. The jargon and objective tone of voice that was so prevalent in my previous research can, in a way, be overshadowed by the below archive of images. They all act to provide either a personal or subjective insight into the minds of those suffering from mental illness and/or disease. Though I do find some more relatable than others, the images all accurately capture the stigma in which surrounds mental heath.

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IMAGE 01

Nicolas Malinowsky’s Tunel Asiatique reveals his struggle to identify with certain Asian cultural aspects and his inability to find his sense of self. On the outset, the image shows a somewhat stereotypical, middle to upper class Chinese male, perfectly groomed. The kaleidoscope effect is cleverly used to unveil the ways in which cultural and societal opinions can inflict on ones sense of self and ones sense of entitlement.

IMAGE 02

Within Image 02 Australian photographer Beethy, takes his own internal experience with anxiety and turns it inside out. The image is extremely emotive, reflecting the artists personal experiences with panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. Beethy transcends the inner workings of anxiety, revealing it on the outset and making it an intensely accurate physical depiction of the disorder. By doing so, non-sufferers are able to gain a deeper understanding into the minds, thoughts and feelings of those whom are suffering generating the compassion and empathy society longs for.

IMAGE 03

John Keedy’s series It’s Hardly Noticeable explores the world of a character who navigates living with an unspecified anxiety-based mental illness. He negotiates situations constructed to highlight the impacts and implications of his differences on his thoughts and behaviours, and by doing so raises question of normalcy. The series reveals the relationship between reality and perception, and highlights issues of pathology while questioning stereotypes of normalcy. These images question the legitimacy of applying the term normal in a societal context by prompting a reconsideration of what, if anything, is normal, or at least what is perceived and labeled as such.

IMAGE 04

Image 04 reveals the deep, dark pain and suffering experienced by the mentally ill. The movement in this image creates a certain chaos that resonates within the viewer. The identity crisis and struggle to meet societal norms experienced by those suffering from a mental illness and/or disorder can be seen throughout this image. The blurred sense of self that is so apparent within the piece evokes a sadness and tenderness felt by the viewer.

IMAGE 05

To me, this image is extremely important and influential in the need for a reduction in stigma surrounding mental health as it demonstrates societies destructive role in adding to such stigma. Using such recognisable symbols of freedom and restraint (birds and a barbed wire fence) the artist allows the viewer to notice how society can be suppressive, especially to those suffering from a mental illness and/or disorder. Depending on the mindset in which you view this image, it can also be seen as a beacon of hope, revealing societies ability to also encourage freedom and liberation as the birds break free from the barbed wire fence.

IMAGE 06

Lorenzo Gritti has created this image as part of an American campaign aimed at reducing stigma surrounding the issue of mental health, showing the correlation between mental and physical illnesses and the need to treat them with equal care. The image depicts a healthcare professional massaging the brain symbolising the industries indistinguishable need for mental health training alike the eminent CPR training in relation to physical health. Though the CPR course is undertaken by a large portion of the population, it is rare to be put to use. However, the Mental Health Training program provides participants with the knowledge to impart developed skills in both public emergencies and private ones. This image is extremely successful in executing its message on encouraging and generating the respect and recognition mental illness/disorders deserve.

IMAGE 07

This image conveys similar meaning to that of image 04 in that it explicitly reveals a loss of sense of self and the inability for identity to resonate that those suffering mental illnesses may experience. The movement and brush strokes used to form the subjects face shows extreme angst within the artist. Being a self portrait, this artwork can be interpreted as the artists dissatisfaction with their self and their confusion felt when trying to conform to societal norms. The entire face is blurred by harsh brush strokes allowing us as the viewer to feel the extreme emotion that was exonerated by the artist them self. We are able to, in a sense, feel as though we are the ones with a clouded, dark mind, struggling to find our own identity.

IMAGE 08

So often in todays society is Mental Illness transcended to nothing more than an adjective. Image 08 depicts this trivialisation that is so apparent, especially within social media platforms. Once these common phrases are shown together, the viewer begins to notice their disturbing qualities. This is a major problem in todays society as we continuously refuse to acknowledge mental health as a serious issue, constantly downplaying and trivialising such illnesses. The sketch-like nature of the image gives it that human touch it needs in order to completely resonate within the viewer and stand out as a REAL problem. This trivialisation and derogatory nature in which mental health is viewed is what is adding to the stigma which so desperately needs to be reduced.

IMAGE 09

Marissa Betley’s Project 1 in 4 is a daily exploration of the everyday struggles presented by mental illness. The series is geared towards banishing the stigma surrounding mental health by creating awareness. Each sketch illustrates real stories told by real people to generate real change, mindfulness and empathy. With elegant directness, she exposes the stigmas and misconceptions to which we as a society continue to cling to, isolating, amplifying and invalidating psycho-emotional anguish. Beneath the mere relaying of these experiences, however revelatory in itself, is a deeper call for compassion — a reminder that, as Betley puts it, “love and support makes all the difference.”

IMAGE 10

Image 10 revolves wholly around the issue of communication, listening and talking, that is fundamental to the issue of mental health AND in reducing stigma. Stigma is so prevalent in this image as the subjects in the artwork literally bury their heads hiding from certain conversations deemed ‘awkward’ or ‘uncomfortable’. There is an evident amount of fear from judgment, prejudices and discrimination depicted in this image. The artist ultimately aims to convey the importance of communication, prompting those suffering from a mental illness and/or disorder to talk and listen to one another, with a shared experience always trumping that of a solitary one.

 

Amy Lomax

Continue reading “POST THREE – MAPPING THE STAKEHOLDERS AND CONSTRUCTING AN IMAGE ARCHIVE”

POST FIVE – AN INSIGHTFUL INTERVIEW

[PICTURE: KATIE JOY CRAWFORD]

I found the process of semi structured interviewing extremely beneficial in allowing me to broaden my perspective and gain further insights into the issue of mental illness. By conducting the interview in a relaxed environment and casual manner I was able to access a deeper perception with the interviewee being highly responsive. The environment and nature of the interview also allowed for the interviewee to reveal past personal experiences with mental illness, particularly her battle with depression.

A semi structured interview on the issue of mental health:

  1. What are some of the ‘warning signs’ or symptoms of mental illness?Extreme mood swings, sudden withdrawal from social aspects, reluctance to communicate on a personal level, extreme tiredness, out of character conversations
  2. How do attitudes, including your own, differ between those suffering from mental illness and/or disorders and non sufferers?My attitude does not change, but I think this is largely due to my past experience and personal suffering with depression. I do, however, think the attitude of society is trivialising mental illness. People aren’t treating it as a real illness as they would a physical illness. Society downplays mental illness. Suggesting someone with depression simply “cheer up” shows their reluctance to acknowledge that there is an actual problem.
  3. Do you feel your role as a teacher/community member is important to those suffering and influential in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health?Yes. I am lucky that my past experiences have allowed me to have a deeper understanding and compassion than my co-workers, for example, who have not dealt with mental illness on a personal level. I aim to encourage open-mindedness and an increased level of understanding within the workplace in hope to reduce such obvious stigma.
  4. What services are available to those experiencing mental health problems within the local community?There are a half dozen psychologists available, however these come at a reasonable cost making them unattainable to a large portion of the community. There is also a mens shed and school counsellors that are free and accessible. The advocation and promotion of such services is, however, quite poor leaving community members unaware of such services available.
  5. In your time spent teaching have you seen or experienced any reduction in the stigma surrounding mental health?No. I don’t think people are as open and compassionate as they should be. Listening, talking and communicating are all well and good, but a safe and relaxed environment in which people feel comfortable and accepted is essential. My co-workers would still rather take ‘sick leave’ by means of a physical illness as opposed to a ‘mental health day’, in which we are equally entitled to.

The richness, compassion and sensitivity of this interview revealed the discerning stigma surrounding mental health, and societies impact upon this, from an insiders perspective. If we as outsiders, non-sufferers and a member of today’s society can acknowledge the unmistakable stigma as well as those personally suffering, why is such stigma so ascertainable? Does it really take certain parallel experiences to endorse the sympathy and empathy essential in creating a cohesive society and the ultimate reduction in stigma?

 

Amy Lomax

POST FOUR – MENTALLY HEALTHY DESIGN

[Picture: Gemma Correll]

I think that one of the biggest problems within today’s society is that we don’t even know how to think about many of today’s problems. We think our reason and effort will be enough to solve them. However, these problems are of a different nature to the ones experienced in the past. They are different because, we as a society are now more interconnected than ever before. There can now be no simple cause and effect, especially when discussing Mental Health in an emergent practice context.

The Government of Western Australia’s Mental Health Commission, realises that a prevention and intervention method needs to be taken when addressing mental health in an emergent practice context. The Mental Health 2020 campaign focuses on reforming Western Australia’s mental health system by ultimately reducing societal stigma, their tagline being: “Making it personal and everybody’s business”. Mental Health 2020 sees a vision of a Western Australia where everyone works together to encourage and support people who experience mental health problems and/or mental illness to stay in the community, out of hospital and live a meaningful life.

The Commission has responsibility for strategic policy, planning, purchasing and monitoring of mental health services in Western Australia. In addition, the Commission seeks to raise public awareness of mental wellbeing, promote social inclusion and address the stigma and discrimination affecting people with mental health problems and/or mental illness. The Mental Health 2020 campaign is devised under 3 key reform directions; person centred supports and services, connected approaches and balanced investment.

The campaigns effectiveness relies on not only it’s focus on the individuals unique strengths and needs through suffering from mental illness, but also the dire need for strong connections; be it between public and private mental health services, primary health services, mainstream services, businesses, communities, individuals, families and carers. The suggested increased accessibility to community based programs with strong links to existing universal services are likely to be the most acceptable, effective and least stigmatising.

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The above Ecomap, developed to help outline the Mental Health 2020 campaign, demonstrates the array of relationships, supports and services available to those individuals experiencing mental health problems and/or mental illness.By ultimately reducing the stigma surrounding the mental health sector and improving strength in community connections, such relationships, support networks and facilities will be responsive to their needs and strengths, interests and preferences.

 

Amy Lomax

Continue reading “POST FOUR – MENTALLY HEALTHY DESIGN”

POST TWO -BUILDING EXPERTISE USING SCHOLARY SOURCES

[Picture: Haejin Park]

With the vastness of mental health as my chosen topic, the dense research conducted in formulating Post One has enabled me to hone in on what I believe is the predominant issue, that being mental health and those suffering as depicted through the eyes of society. Society is the prime contributing factor to the stigma in which surrounds mental health. Mental health stigma operates in society, is internalised by individuals, and is attributed by health professionals. Erving Goffman, in his seminal work: Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, states that stigma is “an attribute that is deeply discrediting” that reduces someone “from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one”. This very definition of stigma, and societies influential impact on such stigma, is explored in the following scholarly articles, each illustrating the importance on de-stigmatisation in regards to mental health.

B G Link, J C Phelan, M Bresnahan, A Stueve, and B A Pescosolido, the authors of Public conceptions of mental illness: labels, causes, dangerousness, and social distance, have used nationwide survey data to categorise characterise current public conceptions related to recognition of mental illness, particularly perceived causes, dangerousness, and desired social distance. The data was derived from a vignette experiment where as the chosen respondents where randomly assigned 1 of the 5 vignette conditions, 4 of which described psychiatric disorders and the fifth being that of a “trouble person”.

The study reveals a positive outcome in terms of societies recognition and identification of mental illnesses and causes of such illnesses, however, it is evident that there is a strong connection between mental disorders and perceived likelihood of violence. This, coupled with the fact that such a perception is strongly associated with attitudinal social distance, poses questions regarding current societal beliefs about mental illnesses. If the symptoms of mental illnesses continue to be linked to fears of violence, people with mental illnesses will be negatively impacted and continually ostracised from society, hence action must be taken to help reduce the overall surrounding stigma towards mental health.

Patrick W. Corrigan’s scholarly article highlights that the course and outcomes of mental illness are indeed hampered by stigma and discrimination. Corrigan has conducted research on controllability attributions mapping the relationships between signalling events, mediating stigma, emotional reactions, and discriminating behaviour. His article dissects mental health stigma modelled on 3 dignifying issues: (1) Labelling of mental illness and the behaviours associated and attributed by society, (2) Bridging knowledge structures and society by means of controlling public attitudes about dangerousness and self-care, (3) Examining the ways in which these knowledge structures can lead to emotional reactions and behavioural responses. Corrigan analyses mental health on this 3 tiered model in hope to provide some insight into why it is such stigma is so imbedded in todays society.

The article enables an understanding of the significant implications for social change strategies that seek to decrease mental illness stigma and discrimination. Corrigan allows us to discover that in order for such a change in societal driven stigma to occur, attitudes within society must be adjusted. Corrigan describes mental illness as a “two edged sword”, one end being the symptoms and skill deficits that arise from the psychiatric disease, the other being the societal reaction to such illnesses ultimately resulting in stigma and discrimination. 

 

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[Picture: Haejin Park]

 

Amy Lomax

Continue reading “POST TWO -BUILDING EXPERTISE USING SCHOLARY SOURCES”

POST ONE – CREATING A DATA SET USING SECONDARY SOURCES

[Picture: Gemma Correll]

My choice to closely analyse and investigate the issue of Mental Health was an obvious one with staggering statistics revealing that 50 percent of Australians suffer mental illness at some point in their lives. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44, with almost seven people taking their life every day. It is without a doubt an Australian adolescent has encountered mental illness on either a personal note or second hand. With statistics revealing the high prevalence of mental illness within today’s society, we are simply forced to question the ongoing stigma that surrounds and suffocates mental health.

The WHO has proposed to declassify transgender identity as a mental disorder in hope to reduce the stigma towards those that associate themselves as being transgender. Shayla Love, for The Sydney Morning Herald, addresses the reasons and potential implications of removing transgender identity from the classification of mental disorders in WHO’s forthcoming ICD (International Classification of Diseases). Through the close consideration of a study released by the Lancet Psychiatry journal, Love acknowledges new evidence supporting the change. Geoffrey Reed, co-author of the study, is referenced by Love: “A condition is designated as a mental illness when the very fact that you have it causes distress and dysfunction.” The study argues that this isn’t the case with transgender identity, but is actually external factors including societal stigma, violence and prejudice that equate to the suffering.

Love makes the connection between said issue and past controversies with The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the psychiatric disorder guidebook, once including Homosexuality and Hysteria as mental illnesses. So why not remove the classification all together, as was done with homosexuality? Because one of the primary incentives within the change is geared towards improving transgendered people’s access to health care. Love argues that the risks associated with total removal of the transgender classification out way the destigmatisation that would be equated.

With reference to varying reliable and factual sources, Love accounts for both the positives and negatives associated with the WHO’s proposed change. With this said, I believe such declassification is not addressing the biggest problems that trans people are facing. The issue is not a semantic definition, but real issues like violence, poverty, homelessness, and housing discrimination. These are all the unpleasant realities in which mental illness sufferers face.

Matt Hartman, for the Huffington Post, draws on his personal encounters with a schizophrenic homeless man. In comparison to other articles I have come across, consisting of the factual, statistical jargon that is often associated with mental health subject matter, Hartman writes in an emotive way encouraging empathy and compassion within the reader. Even the name of the article; “Why Mental Illness Saddens ME” makes it immediately personal.

What intrigues me most about Hartman’s article is the way in which he compares the mentally ill with “most of us”. In reference to the homeless man Hartman writes “This man — who is ostracized and lacking the love that most of us have — has more love in his heart than most people.” It is apparent Hartman feels extremely passionate about the issue of mental health and certain societal behaviours, even prior to mentioning his mother whom is also schizophrenic.

By making the correlation between mental illness sufferers and “the rest of us”, Hartman argues that for destigmatisation to successfully take place, society must learn how to treat people who are different than us, especially those who suffer from severe mental illnesses, and ultimately “like human beings: to make sure they’re clothed, housed and fed. To make them feel like their lives aren’t meaningless.” As opposed to the previously discussed article, Hartman proposes we focus not on categorising but normalising.

 

GemmaCorrell

[Picture: Gemma Correll]

Bettina Friedrich, an academic researcher and affiliate of the Global Anti Stigma Alliance (GASA), discusses mental health stigma as an issue in our society and the consequential factors in relation to terrorism. Friedrich conducts extensive research into recent terror attacks, in particular those based in Germany and more specifically Munich. The German Press’ translation of the Munich attack, which was inherently thought as a terrorist attack, to be now considered and broadcasted as perpetrated by someone suffering from mental health issues. Friedrich lets us discover the media’s laudable attempt to avoid stigmatisation of people from Muslim backgrounds in association to terrorism. This then comes at a cost with media and officials quickly speculating on “mental health problems” as the probable cause of an attack when information was scarce.

Such stigma surrounding mental health is apparent as Friedrich reveals several articles with trivialising headlines such as “Munich Maniac”. In reference to several studies Friedrich also touches on the ways in which society overestimates the capacity for aggression and violence in those with mental health problems. An interesting point made in Friedrich’s article is the revelation of gender and ethnicity as predominant predictors rather than mental health diagnoses. In saying so, terror tendencies and mental health problems must not be mutually exclusive.

While it is crucial media continue to carefully avoid fear-mongering and ethnic or religious stereotypes, journalists need also be aware of how they are reporting on mental health. As Friedrich writes “Stigmatising reporting of an incident with high public attention can increase stigma and quickly undo positive effects that years of educational campaigning around mental health might have achieved.”

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[Picture: Gemma Correll]

Vivian Nunez, for Forbes Magazine, focuses on Dior Vargas’ de-stigmatising of mental health conversations for people of colour and most importantly increasing overall equality within the mental health sector. Nunez focuses on recounting the stories of trailblazing Latinas. All opinions expressed by Forbes Magazine contributors are their own. Nunez highlights that “36% of Hispanics with depression received care versus 60% of Whites,” explained by Dior Vargas, the Creator behind the People of Colour & Mental Illness Photo Project. Vargas, a Latina mental health advocate, shares her experience with Nunez in relation to using social media as a platform to de-stigmatise mental health conversations for people of colour.

Nunez comments on the array of contributing factors that “create a high barrier of entry” when addressing mental illness for people of colour. As well as the obvious stigma which surrounds mental health as an entirety, people of colour also encounter the financial burden of treatment, cultural and familial expectations, and whether the individual feels supported in their place of employment. Both Nunez and Vargas agree that in order for mental health and culture to coexist those sufferers must fully understand their culture and receive the help and care they deserve from within their culture.“If we want our family to have a better quality of life, then mental health has to be a part of that” says Vargas.

Wendy Williams, a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector, addresses the negligence of physical and sexual health for those suffering with mental illness. Pro Bono Australia supports organisations in and around the social sector by reporting, connecting, and advocating ultimately hoping to increase philanthropy and community engagement. Williams, for ProBono, comments on shocking reports revealing that people with mental illness die up to 30 years earlier than the general population. The report, released by The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, reveals that a young person’s mental illness diagnoses can often becomes the single focus of their treatment, at the cost of their physical health.

Williams agrees with the revelations of the report discussing the fundamental need for a holistic approach when addressing the health and wellbeing of young people with mental illness including a focus on their physical and sexual health. The report shows that such limited focus can cause a vicious cycle of drug and alcohol abuse as said sufferers lack an educated understanding of the physical health effects.

It is without a doubt the mental health sector needs to be addressed as a priority in Australia’s healthcare system. The need for preventative measures and intervention is dire. Williams agrees with the report in arguing that a greater understanding of the physical health effects of mental illness would provide the foundation on which public health policies, prevention programs and increased early intervention could be developed.

 

Amy Lomax

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