Call off the Engagement: Revising the Proposal.

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.


Project: TBC

Type: Generative

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.

Possible Change:

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: <;.



It’s raining brains.

Post 9: Collaborative Brainstorming

As I’m sure is true for anyone in my class, I don’t like openly collaborating on my own ideas,  but I do like talking about others’. I think theres a reluctancy to put forward your own ideas simply for the fear of others shutting them down. However, what’s great about a collaborative brainstorming session is that instead of putting forward a large selection of your own haphazard, messy and self conscious ideas that are usually quite similar in their direction, you are able to start with a blank canvas with a group that might be able to see the problem through a unique lens. Collaborative brainstorm isn’t as daunting as presenting a range of ideas to a group, because you are given the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other, be inspired by each other and start flows of conversation and creativity that might be incredibly useful in the idea generation process.

Our group brainstorming session during class was incredibly useful, and I found it far more valuable than the brainstorming I had attempted just the day before that class that was tedious and resulted in me forming a page of similar ideas, most of which were merely ‘filler’ proposals that were used to make the page look nice. It took a while to get the ball rolling, (our first brainstorm not as quick and smooth as the next few), but eventually we were starting to get creative with our ideas. Initially we were trying to split our possible design outcomes into the three categories of Service Design, Generative Design and Data Visualisation and work on each Emergent Practice Area on it’s own. It didn’t take long for us to realise that it was better for our creative thinking to not worry about categorising our ideas and focus on churning them out, disregarding how easy they would be to create, how useful they might be and how we might visualise them. What we needed to do was focus on the problem statement and think about creative ways of combatting that issue. Allowing the freedom of thought meant that each time we delved into conversation about a proposed idea, our words helped us segue onto the next one.


These two images are from Brainstorms that were not my own topic, but were from individuals in my group. I found that even listening to the ideas of others and coming up with possible solutions for topics that were not my own, I was able to be inspired and spark trains of thought in my own mind that might be useful for my own area of research. In the first map pictured above, one of my group members mentioned the world renowned unique mental health initiative Post Secret, in which individuals mail anonymous postcards with secrets or burdens that are playing on their mind and have them published online and in published books. Post Secret has been a movement I have been following for many years and it caused me to think about how this might be a source of inspiration in regard to own problem statement.


I am very grateful for the ideas generated by my group in regard to my own research area of choice. Not only was it incredibly useful to have other creatives come up with ideas that I alone might never have visited in my own brainstorming process, It was also incredibly beneficial to have the presence of others during the process. The pressure of having to voice ideas out loud and make comments during conversation forced myself to think about my words, my ideas and what they really mean. Collaboration is just as much a performance as it is a research method, and the nerves I get from having to work in groups can sometimes be more useful then it is a hinderance.

Connecting with the Disconnected.

POST 8: Design Proposal


I must be honest, over the past number of weeks of research I have been extremely indecisive about the potential focus for my design proposal. I have been flicking my interest within the issue of Mental Health constantly. I have found it incredibly difficult to pinpoint a specific aspect that interests me, as I start to get excited with every new piece of information I may find. I would breathe a sigh of relief and think; this is it! I want to research this further! Only to find the next sentence is just as eye-opening as the last.

However, looking back on my patterns of research I can’t shake my concern for the mental health experiences in rural and regional Australia. Having grown up in urban Sydney my entire life, I feel spoilt for choice in terms of mental health services. I have a HeadSpace centre within walking distance of my home, I knew where my school counsellor’s office was and when he was in, I could name at least 5 different mental health organisations off the top of my head and find their webpages and phone numbers within seconds. This slightly dark luxury of mine is something I have never considered until I started to reflect on my own experience during this research process. Young people in rural and regional areas – particularly males – have the highest instances of mental illness, yet are the least likely to seek help and treatment. Consequently and horrifically this group also have the highest recorded rates of suicide in Australia. The statistics themselves are enough to make me want to yell: “What are we doing about it?!” But the circumstances of geography, technological access and social context are all factors that are against motions to change these facts.

I was sitting on the train one afternoon and noticed an advertisement directed at parents that was urging them to notice the signs of anxiety and depression in their adolescent children. It warned that young people rarely seek help if their parents are not initiating the process or at least a huge support in the process. I was reminded of a statistic I read from Black Dog Institute that noted that 70% of people living with mental illness in rural and regional Australia do not seek help. I started to imagine the young adults and the adolescents living in these isolated spaces who might not have the social advantage of us living in highly populated areas when it comes to support networks and prevalence of treatment centres. If young people are not informed enough to seek help, feel as if no one will listen, do not know where to go or are simply too frightened to speak out then what chance to they have of ever breaking through that initial stage of silence?

W, W, W, W & W.

  1. WHO does the problem affect?
    The main actors affected by this issue are young people struggling with mental illness who live in rural and regional areas of Australia – as well as their families,
    local healthcare professionals and online mental health initiatives. 
  2. WHAT are the boundaries of the issue?
    This issue is primarily as a result of a lack of awareness in these rural and regional communities for mental illness and it’s potential pathways to help. However it is also clearly a structural issue as there simply not enough facilities in place for these isolated areas let alone initiatives that are accessible for young people sometimes acting alone. 
  3. WHEN does it occur?
    Right at the core of this issue is that young people suffering from mental illness in rural and regional areas are uninformed about seeing the signs of mental illness, are frightened or uncomfortable speaking out or may not have the support systems in place. The geographical location hinders their chances of speaking out due to three main factors;
      –  There simply isn’t the same facilities or resources available as there is in urban areas. In some cases there may be one local GP who has limited experience in mental illness.
    –  The intimacy of rural life means that individuals are fearful of everyone ‘finding out’ about their mental health. (“everybody knows everybody’s business in a small town”)
    –  The culture of resilience and self-reliance in rural communities means people are reluctant to speak out if they are struggling.
  4. WHERE does the problem occur?
    This issue occurs on a personal level for so many young people living in rural and regional communities. It can become an issue within the household, or stretch within their wider community, but it’s the lack of recognition and stigma associated with seeking help that prevents a possible solution.
  5. WHY is this issue important?
    You can see how important this issue is if you just read any statistic for suicide in rural and regional Australia. Young people in this areas are the most at risk of suicide and that fact alone is enough to need immediate solutions. We cannot neglect the communities that are out of our urban centres. Australia is a hugely diverse landscape with rural and regional areas that are so essential to our cultural, social and geographical identity, and we cannot turn a blind eye to the young people suffering in these areas. We need to allow young people to start the recovery process on their own if they are unable to reach out to a healthcare professional or a family member. We need to break down the culture and stigma that hinders sufferers from seeking help. 


Young people living in rural and regional communities are reluctant to make the step to seek self-initiated help for mental illness due to the lack of health care facilities, the burden of social stigma and the lack of emotional support.


After identifying my problem statement, we moved on to the Collaborative Brainstorming process. While I was nervous about having an entire group look onward as I write my problem statement in the centre of a large page, I knew that I always find these group idea generation tasks quite beneficial in my process.


After the initial brainstorming process, I started to identify 5 areas that I might want to expand on further and could lead to potential design proposals (Marked with Red Asterisk). I felt that while I had basic ideas of where these may lead, I needed to expand on them just a little further in order to see their strengths and weaknesses as actual design projects:




  • Data Visualisation comparing the experiences of mental illness of young people living in rural and regional areas with that of young people in urban areas. A multi layered data visualisation that would feature comparisons in statistical data, including suicide rates, facilities utilised as well as actual accessibility to healthcare, issues of alcohol and abuse and other potential factors that may influence the differences between urban and rural experience. This data visualisation would aim to raise awareness of the disadvantages for young people in rural and regional areas in regard to the treatment and experience of mental illness.
  • Online or Mobile Mindfulness application that acts as a subscriptive service targeted toward youth living in rural and regional Australia. Inspired by the Headspace UK Application, the design would feature mindfulness tasks and resources for young people looking to seek help on their own terms. Mindfulness is an incredibly useful skill to incorporate into everyday life and one of the easiest ways to help improve wellbeing and combat mental illness.
  • ‘Shout Into the Void’ Online program that allows individuals to submit a secret or a burden playing on their mind that disappears once it is posted. Similar to the “Scream Into The Void” Webpage featured on talk show; Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, but more directed toward breaking down the sense of loneliness and isolation that comes with dealing with mental illness in rural and regional areas. When users ‘shout’ (type, write or draw) a confession into the void,  they receive someone else’s anonymous ‘shout’ back to them. Understanding that you’re not alone, understanding that there are other people out there who feel the same and that you can make it together.
  • ‘What Makes me Happy’ Photo project, inspired by my own personal probe task from an earlier blog post, this project would encourage rural and regional young people to send snapshots of one moment a day that fills them with joy or makes them feel calm, relaxed or hopeful. The photos would then be exhibited in an online space which would allow us to see a small amount of data about the individuals, their age, their location and an insight into what they care about. The main purpose of the project is not to view the data however, it is to allow youth in rural and regional areas the opportunity to take time to mindfully appreciate small snapshots of their lives that fill them with positivity. One of my family members who suffers from severe depression was encouraged to do 5 small things for themselves everyday, be it buying a coffee or taking time to sit in the sunshine. Being mindful of the things in your life that are stable and positive is just one self-initiated treatment for mental illness and can really help you to slowly lift your mood on a daily basis.



While still in it’s initial stages, what I am currently proposing is a generative design installation that comments on the isolation of young people experiencing mental illness in rural and regional communities. The installation would be linked to a live website that would be targeted toward rural and regional young Australians. It would feature a large-scale real time projection in a public space in Sydney of submissions from the webpage. The sentence to young people (could) be; ‘It Makes Me Sad When….’ or ‘Today I feel…’ Rural youth would be invited to draw or write a response to this question on a shared mural and have their answer added to the live projection in urban Sydney. The program would then identify the location of submission and allow rural responses to be added to the real-time projection. Beside each message the age and location of the individual would be identified. Above the installation would read, ‘Young Australians in rural and regional Australia are the group most at risk of suicide. This is what makes the youth of rural Australia sad:’ There would be cameras present above the mural that would allow youth using the website to see real time images of the people of city reading their words.

This design would not be trying to propose any solutions, nor would it be trying to replace discussions with psychologists, but rather it is used as a way to conceptually break down the barriers of physical isolation that prevent our young people from reaching out. The social, geographical and cultural factors that make young rural Australians the least likely to seek help for a mental illness can start to be erased as we finally address the sheer horror of this growing issue. Young people are able to address how they feel and understand that people will listen.



2014, Black Dog Institute, Rural Mental Health Appeal, viewed 15th September 2016, <;.

Warren, F. 2005, PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions From Ordinary Lives, William Morrow, USA. see also: <;.

2016, HeadSpace Incorporated, London, Mobile Application, <;.

2015, Scream Into The Void, viewed 15th September 2016, <;.

Word Maps and Meanings

POST 7: Issue Mapping

During my Designing Out Crime class for Lab B, My tutor was in the process of Designing a valid scale for measuring the emotive power of individual words and publishing these findings in a dictionary that would contain thousands and thousands of entries. This concept, briefly touched on by my evidently very patient tutor, would come to be extremely relevant in my research surrounding the issue of mental illness, particularly the study and mapping of it’s relevant words. I didn’t totally comprehend the power of words until I participating in the first part of the word mapping task in Week 4. We were able to identify hundreds of key terms associated with this issue with no problems at all, but the real interest was born as we started to individually look at these terms in the context of their use, look at their synonyms and antonyms and really break down what they mean and who would use them. I was deeply interested in how certain words and their ‘opposite meanings’ could both seemingly have clinical or negative connotations. I would have imagined that the opposite meaning of a very unemotional and detached would have been one full of positivity and emotion. However, with words like ‘rational’ and ‘irrational’ we have built socialised interpretations of meaning that give both of these terms a vague negative layer. This finding was true to many of our words, words that are not intended to have any harmful effects but have been built up in a social space to have vicious and hurtful meanings in this particular context.


Working with others during this task was extremely helpful. It becomes evident that while I can be extremely well versed in this issue and the dialogue that surrounds it, I may be only looking at the issue through one particular lens. Each and every one of us has experienced a different social context that allows us to see, feel and react to certain situations and ideas in a completely different way to our peers. Taking advantage of this ability to see things in a different light will be extremely helpful in this task. My group members were able to step in when my mind draws a blank, and I was able to do the same for them. What results is a far richer pool of information and ideas that is going to be so much more useful moving forward with these tasks.

What i found most insightful about these mapping exercises, is that they allowed us to relate avenues of change or possibilities of design to particular problem areas. Through my research I became aware of the growing issue of young people seeking help for their mental health. While adolescents and young adults are among the most effected by mental illness and yet they are the least likely to seek treatment. This is particularly true in rural and regional areas where facilities are scarce and geographic location plays a huge role. I found myself interested in the popularising of e health and it’s relevance in relation to young people who are reluctant to seek help. This combination of concepts came to me through the mapping exercises. I started to notice patterns of words and certain relationships that allowed me to pin point an area of interest. Below are a selection of maps we created, each of which shows relationships that have lead to a problem that I find myself interested in.


It makes me sad when…

Post 6: Data Scraping

Twitter is a social media platform that is diverse in it’s content and it’s users, but unique in it’s purpose. I chose Twitter as the form of social media that I was to analyse in relation to my chosen issue of mental health. One of my dear friends has quite a successful Twitter account, and I vividly remember her likening this platform of social media as more often than not “screaming into the void”. While other applications like Facebook are based on community building and conversation through media, Twitter was built on, and will always be remembered for, it’s immediacy and it’s publication of personal opinion. Twitter has an intimacy that differs from newer social media applications like SnapChat and Periscope in that it gives us not a snapshot of one’s life, but gives them a platform to voice their inner musings, thoughts, feelings, opinions. I chose Twitter for this data scraping task as opinions on and experiences of mental health would undoubtedly be more likely publicised on a platform that encourages such personal and intimate expression.

Analysing tweets across the world over this past weekend, I decided to focus on simple search terms and combinations of words that might give some insight into why people are choosing to voice their sadness or negative feelings online and what their reasons are behind this. Replacing the word ‘sad’ with ‘happy’ in these instances yielded many more results using the same search terms. I would argue people on Twitter, due to the public nature of the platform, and also in everyday life, are more likely to voice their joy for something than their sadness. It is this reluctancy to voice what is on our mind in relation to our feelings of sadness that is hindering so many individuals from seeking help when it comes to their mental health.

I started off with words like “makes me sad”, which yielded less personalised results, as most of the posts were based on other people’s actions. This particular phrase lends toward discussion of why things we observe out in our world might affect us negatively. The combination of these words revealed that most of the tweets over the weekend using these search terms were in relation to friend’s and other relationships.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 3.51.08 pm


I then adjusted my search terms in order to try and yield some more personal results in relation to individual’s sense of self and understand why they might be feeling some negativity that particular day. I experimented with a few different words and combinations until I settled on these two:

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 7.29.45 pmScreen Shot 2016-09-05 at 7.57.23 pm

Altering my search terms helped target information more suited to what I was after, that related to the individual themselves. Understandably, there was a trend for tweets involving personal sadness be in relation to current world affairs. While a small number of tweets related to world issues and events, some in the wake of the Earthquake in Italy, the death of a celebrity or current political conversations;

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 8.43.40 pm

There was also the worrying trend of individuals addressing their sadness in a minor way, but also making reference to why they might not be able to voice said sadness in everyday life. There is a huge amount of backlash against individuals that voice their personal struggles with mental health, especially on the internet, and a trend to label these individuals as liars or attention seekers that would deter them from speaking their mind or seeking help in the future.

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However the most troubling and definitely the most common tweets surrounding personal experiences of sadness expressed confusion around why in fact they were feeling sad. While I set out to find out what it is that might make us sad enough to write a tweet, I ended up being quite taken aback by the overwhelming majority of tweets that revealed that so many people “don’t know” why they are sad, or feel confused as to what is causing their drop in mood. We all know there are a huge number of things that can affect our mood on a daily basis, but we are also aware that depressive symptoms are often linked to unexplainable sadness, and are not necessarily caused by any one thing in particular. Feeling a drop in mood without being able to source and understand these feelings can be hugely confusing and could indeed be related to more serious mental health issues then merely a bad day.

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When reading these results, I started to wonder what could be done about this particular trend. Twitter is a social media platform that does not primarily encourage conversation, while individuals can ReTweet and add their own comments, their words are not engaged in a community format as with Facebook. I started to imagine ways we can try and communicate with these individuals in relation to their words. I remembered our lecture on Data Scraping and Twitter Bots, and how lovely it might be to find use these search terms in a more succinct way to find people who reveal that they are sad and they don’t know why, and ReTweet their words with messages of encouragement or links to potentially helpful online sources. There are plenty of great sources like HeadSpace UK (different to HeadSpace AU) that are free applications designed to teach relaxation skills that naturally increase serotonin and general happiness.  I could almost guarantee that these people who shout their unidentifiable happiness ‘into the void’ would be so touched by the consideration, and perhaps look into potential solutions.

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Screenshots from HeadSpace Application, 2016, viewed 5th August 2016 <;.



A picture a day keeps the doctor away.

POST 5: Design-led ethnography



Take one photograph every day for a week when you have a moment of happiness or in which you feel stress-free. Keep this photo diary for 6 days and then on the last day, answer these simple questions:

Why are these particular photographs moments of feeling stress-free?

Can you comment on any patterns in these moments?

Were you able to reflect on your own happiness from this task?


Over the course of the week, my participant, Laura, has been keeping a photo diary to reflect on moments in which she felt happy or stress-free. What I hoped to achieve with this probe, was to make note of any patterns in the results that might reveal what particular moments, experiences or things are a relief for young students. I wanted to use a simplified version of the technique of mindfulness, which is to be conscious of our surroundings in order to relax our mind. While I did not know what Laura was going to photograph, I naturally assumed that these moments of happiness might involve social encounters or times of leisure.

Laura’s photo diary featured a wide range of subject matter, two moments of social interraction, two images of food, one image of a pet dog, one image of watching cartoons and two images of her home on a sunny day. Laura noted herself that there are some patterns here, with moments spent at home or outside being naturally less stressful and more emotionally positive times, because she felt she could “rid myself of the stresses and anxieties that may have occurred that day”. Home is an emotional safehaven for many young people, particularly if it involves family or friends. Over the course of our adolescent life we associate being at home as a safe space in which we can be ourselves, and avoid the social anxieties of public space.

Laura also found moments of joy when she was with friends, which is an obvious result. Social interaction naturally increases our mood and helps us form strong connections that lead to long term happiness. Talking and hanging out with friends is also a great distraction from any negative thought patterns. Good friends are comfortable to be around and help us feel like we have worth, Laura noted that when she was around her friends “I don’t have to pretend to be anyone or anything else.” Laura also had positive responses to moments of down time or leisure. Sometimes, the simplest and most seemingly mundane moments of watching tv or eating dinner can lift our moods considerably. Ensuring you participate in little everyday tasks or things that might make you feel good and relaxed is really important for your overall sense of wellbeing. As Laura wrote, these quiet times can be moments where she can: “sit and think simply without stress or worry about other people”. Being mindful about things you do often can really help your brain slow down and avoid unnecessary overthinking or anxiety. Mindfulness is all about taking things slow, being conscious of your surroundings and how you are in this very moment. Laura taking time to stop and snap a quick image of something that is making her feel positive is encouraging her to be mindful of what makes her feel good, being present in the moment and not feeling any stress or guilt.

Laura’s response to the overall task was positive, and the impact it had on her, even if just for a moment, remained in line with what I hoped this task would achieve. Laura noticed that while she would have known already that all of these things make her happy, she had never “consciously thought about them before in this context.” The task as a whole she found useful, as she could now “make note of these situations so that I can have them as a future reference to ground myself to when I might be feeling stressed, anxious or upset in the future.” Being conscious of experiences, people or moments that are positive influences on your mental health or sense of calm and happiness is really important for students often living stressful and anxious lives.

Next time if I was to conduct this task, I think I would like to extend the length of the task in order to gain some more information, and perhaps introduce a secondary photo diary that might capture moments of stress or pain. The issue with this might be that we are less likely to record and share moments of anguish as we are more focused on this negative feeling. Next time I think that I should have more refined questions in place that cover a few more areas of query in order to get some richer information.



  • We can relieve stress not just through moments of quiet, but also through social interaction as it is a great way to increase self esteem and distract us from unhelpful thought patterns.
  • Sometimes it’s the smallest joys that can have the most impact. Taking time to have a nice meal or play with your pet can slowly lift your mood throughout the day.
  • Being mindful of moments of joy can help us be more conscious of things in our lives that make us feel stress-free and happy and we can be more inclined to focus on these things when we do feel negative or overwhelmed.





The many faces of Mental Illness.

POST 3: Mapping Participants and Creating an Image Archive




This map was an extremely useful tool to reveal the extent of the issue of Mental Illness and the extremely large number of stakeholders, both human and non-human, that are involved in this issue in many different ways. This map pictured above aims to categorize these potential stakeholders and understand the relationships between them. We tried our best to draw lines between entities that were related or that might be similar in some way. This activity was really helpful in understanding the scope of the issue but most importantly it allowed us as designers to understand where problem solving may be able to assist among the huge network of participants.

map3 copy

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


maxresdefaultMiloš F., 1975, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, still frame from a film, viewed via YouTube August 28 2016, <;

This image is a still from the Academy Award winning film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest from 1975. This is just one among many portrayals of psychiatric treatments that were regularly practised in the first half of the 20th century. This particular still features Patrick McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson, undergoing ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy, otherwise known as ‘Shock Therapy’, a treatment for severe psychiatric disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia. The treatment involves inducing seizures in a patient with the use of electric shocks to the brain. ECT is still in use today, as it theoretically remains a sound treatment for severe psychiatric illnesses, with 50% of patients being relieved of many of the more extreme symptoms of their disorder. ECT has been represented in the media in a considerably negative light, and greatly decreased in popularity following the release of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975 which depicted the treatment as cruel, torturous and overused. While many of the treatments for mental illness in the earlier 20th century are considered now to be completely inconclusive, barbaric and unethical, ECT in it’s more modern form is still a legitimate form of treatment for many sufferers. A description from SANE’s fact sheet on ECT reads:

” A general anaesthetic is given first, and then a small electric current is passed between two electrodes placed on the scalp. The brain works through complex electrical and chemical processes. These are affected by mental illnesses, so that they don’t work properly. Like medication, ECT works on these processes so that they operate more normally again and symptoms are reduced. There is now a clear body of scientific evidence that ECT is effective in improving depressive and psychotic symptoms. ”
SANE Australia, 2016, ECT Fact Sheet, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.

What is evident is the huge emotional impact depictions within the media can have on the public’s attitude toward a particular issue. Films like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Requiem for a Dream and A Beautiful Mind all depict past psychiatric treatments including ECT in an extremely negative light, and would have contributed to it’s negative reputation throughout society.



Leunig, M. 2016, cartoon, viewed August 28 2016, <;.

Michael Leunig is an Australian poet and cartoonist. Leunig is most famous for his cartoons that appear regularly in the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. Leunig’s work discusses relevant social and political issues as well as commentary on emotional and spiritual aspects of everyday life. Leunig’s cartoons are often ambiguous in their messages, due to the simple poetic nature of his artistic practice.

This particular cartoon explores increasing rate of depression in our society, but could be making many different points about this issue. It may be exploring the notion that those with lives saturated by constant news media can live depressed with the horror of our world. Rates of Depression and anxiety are at an all time high, which some attribute to a world so heavy with information and constant communication, many living in a constant fear of danger, crime or terror. Leunig is suggesting those of us that ignore reports on the world around us live in a blissful ignorance.

Leunig may also be using this cartoon to highlight that many living with depression suffer in silence, as it is in fact an invisible illness. Those ‘happy’ characters in the cartoon may live their lives unable to notice the suffering of their friends and family due to the nature of this horrible illness.



DiAntonio, A. 2014, illustration, It’s all In Your Head, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.

This image was found on Behance, an online archive of creative portfolios, created by a design student in Canada in 2014. I was particularly drawn to this image for it’s symbolism, and it’s exploration of the lack of understanding that is a very real social context for many suffering from mental illness. There is a strong social stigma that exists surrounding this issue, we are still in need of greater education and awareness surrounding mental health simply because it is so misunderstood and unrecognized in our society. The title of the work is ‘It’s all in your head’, which is one of the most common misconceptions surrounding mental illness particularly more common disorders such as anxiety and depression. Because these illnesses are ‘invisible’ and do not have more easily recorded physical symptoms as with other illnesses, they have not been prioritised in our health systems and many sufferers are unlikely to come forward to seek help due to the potential social reception of their actions.



1949, Photograph, Walter Freeman performing a lobotomy, <;.

When browsing an image archive that featured past psychiatric treatments and medicines, I came across this particular image of Walter Freeman performing a lobotomy on a patient in 1949.  Walter Freeman was an American physician who specialised in lobotomy and is renown for bringing the practice to America following it’s popularisation in Europe in the 40s. I felt instantly sick when I gazed upon this particular image, which pictures a huge number of people, some in suits, idly standing by in an unsanitised room as a woman receives a lobotomy without anaesthesia. Lobotomy is a now prohibited medical practice that aimed to “cure” patients of mental illness, which involved damaging the frontal lobe of the brain to sever neural pathways and therefore emotional response. Freeman became the spokesman of lobotomy and performed the act with a long metal instrument pushed through the eye socket into the front part of the brain. The practice essentially gave patients such severe brain damage that they were no longer able to have emotional outbursts, psychotic episodes or violent symptoms, because they were now essentially catatonic.

What is so horrifying about this image and many others that depict these archaic treatments of mental illness is that they remind us of a time, about half a century ago, where the stigmatisation of mental illness was so high due to the lack of education and understanding around this issue. Mental disorders were considered so taboo that families went to great lengths to hide it from their friends, sufferers were alienated from society and often had no control over their own fates; forced into treatments that violated so many basic human rights and showed a complete lack of understanding of medical health.


Getty Images, 2016, SANE Australia Mental Image Survey Results, Image 1, viewed 29 August 2016, <×349.gnfuzm.png/1457597699235.jpg&gt;.

Getty Images, 2016, SANE Australia Mental Image Survey Results, Image 3, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.

These two images were taken from a recent study conducted by SANE Australia in a bid to better understand the way we use images when reporting on mental illness in the media. The study invited those with experience of mental illness to assess how fair of a representation certain images were in relation to mental health and experience. The images were provided by Getty images and featured a wide array of subject matter.

These two images I have above are, in order, the most accurate representation and the least accurate representation of mental illness from this particular study. The first image features a young girl in a full colour photograph with a neutral expression, her background filled with black and white blurred images of various negative emotional states. This image was considered to be a fair depiction of experience with mental illness as it showed the potential hidden emotional turmoil that an individual can suffer from, while still remaining a normal, functioning member of society. It highlights the invisible nature of the illness and the fact that it can effect anyone.

The second image, considered to be the most detrimental to viewers’ understanding of a true representation of mental illness features a large pile of pills laid across a dictionary definition of ‘depression’. This image was considered to be harmful as it disassociated the illness from the individual, dehumanising the experience and removing the personal emotional side to these illnesses that is so important when educating others. The use of medication over the dictionary gave the impression that depression is merely defined by medication and required lots of prescribed treatments to be overcome.

SANE reported that it was extremely important for news bodies to be careful about the images that they use when reporting on mental illness, because wrongful depictions of these issues can lead to misunderstanding the personal struggle and the stigmatization of mental health as a problem facing many today.


charnley_self_portrait_series_02Charnley, B. 1991, Painting, Self Portrait Series Number 2, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.

This image above is a piece of art from 1991 by Bryan Charnley, a British painter who’s work vividly explores the experience of schizophrenia. Charnley’s most famous works, Self Portrait Series from 1991 were painted while reducing his prescribed medication over a series of weeks, which culminated in his death by suicide. Between March and April of 1991, Charnley painted 17 portraits, some realistic and some extremely abstract in response to his schizophrenic understanding of self. This image above is the second portrait in the series, with strong similarities to the first, but the head pictured is surrounded by dark squiggles, a rabbit ear and large eye. The symbols in this painting are a response to the increase in paranoia and ‘voices’ that come as Charnley starts to reduce his medication. This visualisation of Schizophrenia gives us a unique insight into how it must feel to suffer from this mental illness. The series was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London after Charnley’s death. It reveals that so many people suffer in silence with their mental health and often we are only aware of the extent of the issue until it is too late.


Unknown Artist, Viewed via Pinterest 29 August 2016, <;.

I found this little comic on Pinterest as I was scouring the web for images. It really resonated with me because I felt that it was such an excellent representation of the lack of understanding that exists surrounding depression and many other mental illnesses. Due to the invisible nature of depression, many who are inexperienced with it’s horrors are often quick to tear down victims, suggesting that they merely ‘get over it’, ‘forget about it’, ‘be happy’ or ‘lighten up’. Belittling these horrible illnesses and suggesting that sufferers experiences can be easily fixed is hugely detrimental to finding a solution. If we bombard those experiencing mental illness with these unhelpful words then we are often worsening the issue and deterring victims from speaking up about their situation.


Ubhi, D. 2013, Time to Change Advertising Campaign, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.

This is a promotional poster for UK Non-for-profit Time To Change, an organisation that focuses primarily on ending the stigma that surrounds mental illness. This image is part of a series that features famous faces such as actors, musicians, sportspeople and comedians that suffer from a range of mental illnesses. The series hopes to break down stereotypes surrounding mental illness that suggest that those that suffer from these horrible disorders are defined by their mental state. These posters, such as this above that features the multi-talented Stephen Fry reveals that individuals can live with mental illness and still make wonderful contributions to society. Time For Change are showing that mental illness is more widespread than we might originally believe, and needs to be an issue that we discuss openly and regularly.


2010, Mental Health Foundation, Mindfulness Advertising Campaign, viewed 30 August 2016, <;.

This poster is from an advertising campaign from the Mental Health Foundation in the UK 2010. The award winning series highlights the benefits of the modern meditation technique of mindfulness can have on us living in our high media and work saturated 21st century world. The photographic series features individuals who’s heads are weighed down with the burden of work, children and other stress. Like the previous advertising campaign above by Time for Change, this image focuses on normalising mental illness and breaking down the stigmas associated with stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is a highly regarded form of self-initiated treatment that is probably not as well known as it should be. Raising awareness of this form of treatment is a really important step in eradicating the suffering of mental illness.

2016, SANE, Picture This: How Australians picture mental illness, survey results, viewed 29 August 2016, <;.


“At first it was abstract – and then it was personal.”

POST 4: The Heart Library Project

The Heart Library Project is a form of participatory design that has been exhibited over the last decade across Australia and the world. George Khut is an academic, artist and interaction designer working within UNSW Art & Design. Produced initially to be viewed in medical contexts at hospitals or research facilities, the design invites users to lay on a bed or platform and attach a small pulse sensor to their ear. The installation records changes in heart rate and pulse of the individual and uses this data to modulate the colours and patterns projected on a screen that hangs above the individual. The design is an instrument for exploring the way we can choose to understand they way our physical responses are attached to our mental and emotional state. Users are invited to explore the way they can voluntarily shift our nervous system responses through choosing to think and do that which relaxes them, through deep breathing, mindfulness, body and muscle awareness or simply thinking about moments or memories that are personally related to calmness. Users can then also try to increase their heart rate and therefor change the colour and pattern visualisations in front of them by focusing on stress, tension and excitement.

This design is inspired by biofeedback treatment, which is a growing area of research in the medical field particularly surrounding issues of mental illness. Biofeedback involves using electronic monitoring of the bodies functions in order to train an individual to acquire control of said bodily functions. Biofeedback can be used by psychologists in order for patients to become mindful of their bodies natural responses to anxiety or stress and be able to more easily control these responses and learn how to encourage relaxation.

“At first it was abstract – and then it was personal.”

“What really interested me was that if I had a thought that was self-critical – then all the dots went red – then when I said ‘I accept myself’ – it all went blue. I thought ‘how quick is that!’ …Just knowing that I’m capable of big things …and at the moment I’m dealing with a life-threatening illness – so that’s important for me – that I’m actually capable of stepping into another realm as well.”

-Transcripts of interviews with exhibition visitors at St. Vincent’s Public Hospital, Darlinghurst

The data is visualised in an extremely beautiful way, using our socialised attitudes toward shape and colour to allow us to understand emotions, for example cool, calm and soft movements and colours are used when the used is relaxed, and fast, hot and harsh colours and and shapes appear on the screen when a fast or irregular heart rate is recorded. What is so interesting about this project, is that it allows users to visualise seemingly abstract emotional responses and see their stress and anxiety as a more tactile entity. George Khut is encouraging us to be mindful of our own bodies and see the connections between our physical presence and our cognitive processes that is such an huge part understanding the state of our mental health.

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Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, George Khut introduces The Heart Library Project at GROUP THERAPY, Vimeo, Video viewed 22 August 2016, <;.

Khut, G., 2007, The Heart Library Project, Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a Digital Age, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

Scanlines., 2010, The Heart Library Project, Scanlines Media Artist Database, viewed 22 August 2016, <;.





Our Youth Mental Health System: Promising or Pathetic?

POST 2: Building your expertise using scholarly secondary sources.



In a world that is highly saturated with technology, the youth of today live the daily grind framed by social media, online news and smartphone applications. It is also true that young people aged 16 to 25 are both the most greatly affected by mental health issues and the least engaged with their mental health treatments. According to research for this study, it appears that while mental health is becoming more prevalent in Australian youth, it remains a proportionally small part of our national mental health initiatives. The tendency for young people to avoid seeking help for mental illness, or to be disengaged from traditional forms of treatment is an ongoing issue for the Australian health system. As mental illness becomes a growing issue for young people, particularly in rural and regional areas, there is a push for more support of online and technologically based treatment programs (this could include, but is not limited to; online counselling, online cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation and mindfulness applications, social networks for suffering individuals).

This particular study explores the usefulness of a combination of technological support for mental illness and face to face treatments to maximize engagement and results for youth suffering from mental health issues. A selection of young people who currently use face to face mental health treatments are given the opportunity to additionally explore some technological treatments. The results are extremely positive toward the helpfulness of technology as an adjunct to face-to-face programs.

This particular article positions the issue of youth mental health as one that needs review. It becomes clear reading through the study that the researchers believe the current methods we use to address mental illness are dated solutions that alienate and disengage young people. We cannot continue to push the same amount of funding into the same avenues for years and years to come and believe it is a reasonable solution. We need to understand that the issue of mental health is worsening and changing and requires constant revision and increase in financial support. This article considers the mental health crisis for Australian youth, while also offering a sense of hope for the future, as it encourages the use of technology as an excellent means of treatment moving into the future.


We may have a highly researched and regarded Health Care system in place in Australia, with millions of dollars put toward youth mental health care systems across the nation, but none of these initiatives have any relevance if they are not seen as approachable and beneficial by the adolescents and young adults that are suffering. Associate Professor Jane Burns has put together an extensively well researched and carefully crafted report that utilises a huge range of high quality sources from the last two decades. This report is an extremely helpful text in understanding the varied landscape of mental health treatments in Australia, and the success and strength they can have when used in combination.

According to Burns, 80% of young people who question their own mental health seek clinical help. Yet instead of unsuccessfully trying to encourage youth to approach clinical psychologists on their own and seek out face-to-face treatments, Burns argues that we need to repair the problem areas that are preventing youth participation, by encouraging youth to get involved with online services, to start discussions with their peers, engage with community programs and online treatments that will lead them on to seeking more traditional forms of psychological and psychiatric help.

What i really enjoyed about this article was that the research was so well collated and the information so well organised that the key points were very clear and easy to understand. Burns did not just list and overuse statistical data, but rather she was able to make expert commentary on the current situation, draw conclusions from various sources and put forth intelligent potential solution directions for the future. What I found most interesting is the faith that Burns and many other psychological experts have in our youth Mental Health system, as long as we start to advertise it to young people in the right way. The key difficulty is youth participation, because the stigma of seeking help and starting a conversation is the greatest hinderance on levels of treatment. Burns writes that Australia already has the “key ingredients to an integrated system of care” and just needs the financial and community support to promote these varied levels of care through online services and offline services.


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Article 1:
Montague, A. E., Varcin, K. J., Simmons, M. B., & Parker, A. G. 2015, ‘Putting Technology Into Youth Mental Health Practice: Young People’s Perspectives’, SAGE, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 1-10. Viewed August 7 2016.


Article 2:
Burns, J., Birrell, E. 2014, ‘Enhancing early engagement with mental health services by young people’, Psychology Research and Behavior Management, vol. 7, pp. 303-312. Viewed August 7 2016.


Diantonio, A. 2014, ‘It’s all in your head’ Via Behance. Viewed August 7.


“If I could change one thing about Australia it would be The Mental Health System.”

POST 1: Creating a Data Set Using Secondary Sources.


I decided to research the issue of Mental Health for the course of this semester. Having two parents living with mental illness, I felt like the relevancy of this topic to my own life would help to maintain my interest over the coming weeks and ignite a desire to not only research, but actively try and create some change. Since the recent federal election, there has been significant conversation surrounding the state of our mental health system in Australia, and a huge public push for revision of,  or larger support for,  existing platforms. Initially, i started to collect articles with no particular selection process, keeping my research scope wide and unbiased to any particular sources. I was aware that the majority of the recent Australian articles I collected were framed by the federal election or our subsequent entry  into a new political term with the Coalition. I started to notice that the response toward Australian youth mental health was almost a desperate call out into the abyss; experts at their wits’ end as youth suicide rises quickly, and organisations pushing relentlessly for greater funding for services. The air of desperation had encouraged our political powers to make drastic promises in the 2016 election in terms of raising financial support for mental health and reviewing our current initiatives.


The first source i visited was a radio program produced by Hack on Triple J. It was an hour long news program that focused on the political side of mental health in Australia aired in the week leading up to the federal election. Hack is a radio program I listen to daily, and usually features topical stories comprised of interviews with experts, research from various journalists, statistical analysis and interaction with the public through anecdotal pieces or real time text and call input. The Hack program is produced by the ABC, and while sometimes labelled as slightly left-leaning, is generally trustworthy, and prides itself on allowing both sides of any one story to have its voice heard, Hack regularly features representatives from both sides of the political spectrum and input from viewers that feature diversity of opinion. This radio piece was extremely informative, using current policy promises from both Labor and Liberal as the frame for the conversation on youth Mental health. It’s exploration of the current state of Headspace, Australia’s largest youth mental health initiative, established in 2006, was particularly interesting, as it explored its successes, through personalised story packages, as well as recently published statistical evidence that suggested it wasn’t performing anywhere near the level it needed to be a decade after it’s inception.


As I delved into other news articles, I started developing an interest in Headspace, simply as it’s our largest government funded mental health initiative for young people. The second article I analysed was from one of my go-to news pages The Conversation, which is an independent, not-for-profit media outlet that uses content sourced from the academic and research community. Primarily sourced from Victorian scholars and universities, The Conversation publishes news stories written by academics, and informed primarily by real research and has been a great source for me during my studies. The article I explored was written by Anthony Jorm, a psychiatrist who was granted funding to research Headspace patients. Instantly I recognised some of the statistics, which I believe were used in the Hack radio program I researched prior. I knew that the information I was reading was trustworthy and highly relevant to the current discussions around the success of Headspace centres, However, the article offered an incredibly quantified view of mental health, which is really such a subjective, complex and emotional issue. It becomes very difficult when we try to break down this issue into a data set, as it cannot be seen as cured or not cured as many physical illnesses are. Then again, I do believe The Conversation were able to leave this publication reasonably open to a sense of optimism for the Headspace initiative, particularly after the monetary promises from both political sides in the lead up to the federal election.


The third article is essentially a breakdown of the shocking current statistics around youth mental health and suicide that were addressed at the recent Suicide Prevention Conference in Canberra. This article uses a high level of data in addition to quotes from experts that were present at the convention in order to highlight the need for drastic change, particularly for youth in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who are so horribly affected by these growing rates of mental illness. Ellery’s article doesn’t offer any unique opinions, but rather uses this quantified evidence as a means to shock the reader. Immediately, I am concerned by the high rates of suicide and the words I read start internal dialogue in my mind, as I begin to grow emotional and question why there exists such horrifying data. Sydney Morning Herald is a prominent news outlet, considered by many to be left leaning but with a high news standard. This article does offer a sense of hope, as we are aware that the conversation around youth suicide has started due to Prevention Conferences like those referenced in Ellery’s piece.


The fourth article I visited was another publication that was born from the recent Suicide Prevention Conference in Canberra. The author, Liz Keen, from the ABC collated a whole lot of expert data and opinion on the state of youth Mental Health in Australia. In a similar way to the previous article I analysed, this piece relies heavily on statistics in order to convey the importance of the issue. There is a large emphasis in this work on the importance to encourage discussion around youth suicide, in order to generate innovative solutions and also to engage those that may be suffering in silence. The article is well researched, and features some personal experiences from those that spoke at the conference in Canberra.


In an attempt to move away from less statistical based news articles and toward more subjective pieces, I visited Junkee, a youth targeted news page that often specialises in satire articles and pop culture. Junkee is generally considered to be an opinion based source, with most of the political articles written by individuals with the intention to start discussion and engage. This particular article from 2015, was written by guest author Chris Raine, CEO of non-for-profit organisation Hello Sunday Morning, that aims to address Australian youth drinking cultures and violence on our streets. This piece, entitled ‘If I Could Change One Thing About Australia It Would Be: The Mental Health System’. What I really enjoyed about Raine’s article was the use of frightening statistical data in order to back up his own opinions on Mental Illness in Australia, not only did he condemn the current system, using his own personal stories as evidence for its pitfalls, but offered up some of his own creative solutions for the future. Raine is working in the field of mental health, has two parents that are both general practitioners, and suffers from mental illness himself – this may make many suggest that he is an expert in the experience of mental health issues. While this article doesn’t necessarily offer up any newly reported information or data, i did felt like it engaged me more so on an emotional level than previous articles. The use of personal anecdotes and experiences really does build up a more complex and humanized stance on the issue then pages of data ever could.



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‘Lets Vote: Mental Health’ 2016, Hack, radio program transcript, Triple J, ABC, Sydney, 28 June 5.30pm, viewed 29 July 2016,

Jorm, A 2015, ‘Is ‘headspace’ really improving young people’s mental health?’, The Conversation, 26 August, viewed 30 July 2016,

Ellery, D 2016, ‘Youth suicide rate demands urgent action ACT conference told’,
Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July, viewed 29 July 2016,

Raine, C 2015, ‘If I Could Change One Thing About Australia It Would Be: The Mental Health System’, Junkee, 5 June, viewed 29 July 2016,

Keen, L 2016, ‘Best way to tackle suicide rates it to be honest about our own mental health: Suicide Prevention Australia’,
ABC News, 28 July, viewed 30 July 2016,

2015, Headspace Instagram, viewed August 1 2016,