Post 10: Drawn in Blue

From the draft proposal workshop last week, I was able to garner valuable feedback and suggested refinements on my issue’s design proposal. While the majority of the workshop catered to collecting feedback from one peer, the informal and casual atmosphere of the classroom allowed pairs to discuss in groups with each other. Thus, I was able to collect feedback from a variety of perspectives from people who researched different areas. The casual nature of the experience allowed for a very non-judgmental attitude when we shared ideas and offered suggestions, creating a space where we can constructively help each other.

With my paired peer, he understood and liked my idea, also offering many design suggestions on improving my proposal in order to create a more engaging system. Some of his suggestions included a ‘bad-ness’ rating system for a cop, creating annual or monthly police profiles based on the data collected from that term and sorting the data by geographic locations. He also gave me advice that I should consider the finer details of the project; for example, how long the project should run for and whether it is a global or localised project. Moreover, as I spoke to more of my peers about my proposal, they offered similar suggestions. One peer even suggesting that I create a rotoscope animation with the drawings. However upon speaking to my tutor, while he did enjoy my proposal, he noticed that its focus seemed to stem away from mental health and instead onto the idea of the police in general. He suggested that I try to bring back mental health as the main focus so that my project isn’t lost in the wider context of my research from this semester.

This workshop was quite fruitful. As such, I’ve refined my proposal with finer details and better design considerations offered by my peers, as well as highlighting mental health as the main focus.

Refined Proposal:

Project Title: Drawn in Blue (TBC)

Practice Type: Generative systems

The Issue: In the rising issue of excessive use of force by police, and their many cases of fatally shooting mentally ill persons being reported on almost daily, the public perceptions of this authoritative role in society has been met with chaos. Doubts, anger and demand for justice against those who deal out the justice have emerged, instigating many debates on public online forums and comment sections. This public perception of the police has encountered a precarious balance between their use of authority and their duty to society – are they protectors or abusers of the power? This becomes extremely problematic as it is generally taught in society that we reach out to the police when we are in dire need of help; but if a mentally ill person is afraid of the law enforcement because of the latter perspective in addition with the evidence of the fatal incidents, then how can they trust and seek help from these deemed protectors of society?

The Possible Change: Through this project, I hope to elicit the varying perspectives of different mentally ill people between the ideas of authority and protection. In visualising the data and analysing people’s reasons for drawing the way that they did, we can identify certain factors and trends that influence people’s perceptions of the police; especially when we gather data from people who suffer from different mental illnesses. People would be able to share their own personal experiences with the police, generating empathy towards all those involved which is dependent on each person’s circumstances. Identifying these factors can then prompt for changes in attitudes and behaviour towards the police as well as changes within the law enforcement’s system in order to better aid those with mental illnesses.

The Design Action to Support Change: The design response consists of two parts – first, a generative system where I would invite those who suffer from a mental illness to participate in a simple drawing exercise, and the second part would be organising the data from the exercise onto an interactive site.

The first part invite people who suffer from any mental illness, no matter how serious it is, to draw a simple drawing of how they view this person in blue. These people would be various in their circumstances of their illness – types of treatments, medication and therapy, whether they’ve been admitted to hospital for long term care, whether that admittance was forced or voluntary, if they’ve ever encountered the police because of their illness, and etc. Other information would include their age, gender and race. This information would be filled out after the drawing exercise on a printed questionnaire that also prompts to provide a reason onto why they drew their drawing the way that they did. The exercise would consist of simple paper and pencils – coloured and lead – making it easy for the participants to understand what to do. Participants are also encouraged to be as open with their interpretation of activity as they like.

The second part is where the works would then be collated and organised on a site. Users can then sort the drawings by the participant’s type of mental illness, type of treatment, admittance to hospital, history with the police, gender, age, race and geographical location. Depending on the parameter, users can also compare groups of data with other parameters to garner a better understanding of the issue. There is also an option to organise the drawings on a positive and negative spectrum to allow users to evaluate the wide variety of perspectives.

The project would be ongoing throughout a few years and initiated globally. This will allow for yearly and geographical comparisons as well as revisits to some of the participants to see if their perception has changed since their last submission.

Header Image:
Mijares, J. 2016, post 10 header, drawing, Sydney, Australia.


Post 9: Thoughts on the Collaborative Ideation

As discussed thoroughly in my previous blog post, we were given the opportunity this week to brainstorm ideas for possible design responses to our issue. For this post, I’ll be sharing my visual documentation and my thoughts on this brainstorming process.

Due to the late start in doing this exercise during the lesson, my peer group was only able to do brainstorm one of the design practice types – service design. Initially, our group didn’t quite understand the exercise and so it was very slow to start until one of the tutors came over and explained it thoroughly for us. It was encouraged that we write any idea that came to mind and not judge our peers when they gave out ideas. With our group’s friendly dynamic, the latter wasn’t the problem.

As I’ve described in blog post 8 and several other previous blog posts, collaboration exercises like this allows for a varying of perspectives to come together. With the relatively short time frame, we tried to bounce many ideas off of each other for each of our focuses. Once we got into the rhythm of idea generating, it was quite easy to find new possibilities through associations of previous things that we would have said. The discussion in between the ideas allowed for possible connections to be made with other ideas, creating an even more effective design possibility. While we were not as rapid as other groups in writing things down on paper, we assessed each idea with an audience, its main purpose and why it’s relevant to our issue. This process allowed for a more fulfilling experience as we were able to generate ideas with conceptual reason and deeper understanding.

Time continued to wane on, and it was clear that our initial enthusiasm was draining while the excitement of going home was growing. It was specifically clear when the focus was on my issue of the law enforcement and mental health. The issue itself is quite heavy to think about, and it’s not as simple as my peer’s other focuses on mental health. Even one of my peers exclaimed how complex the issue was with the numerous factors and actors that were involved, and thus he found it difficult trying to think of something that could be created in service design for my focus. I was able to come up with several ideas quite easily because I had the understanding and knowledge from my research, which my peers didn’t have. They did offer input and feedback to my ideas that I eventually wrote down; but a weakness in this brainstorming exercise is that not everyone in the group has a solid understanding of the intricate details in each other’s focuses. If members had a common understanding on each member’s focus, then maybe participating and ideation would have been easier and more effective.

In conclusion, because of our circumstances on the day, I feel this exercise could have gone a lot better if it was started much, much earlier in the lesson. All in all, we had about 40-50mins left in the tutorial to complete the task; and in the way my group went about our idea generation, it definitely wasn’t enough time. With that said however, the exercise proved to be fruitful with ideas that couldn’t have been possible with brainstorming alone.


Buisman, H., Lin, J. & Mijares, J. 2016, Mental Health Design Response Ideas: Service Design, mind map, Sydney, Australia.

Mijares, J. 2016, Close-up of Service Design Map 1, photograph, Sydney, Australia.

Mijares, J. 2016, Close-up of Service Design Map 2, photograph, Sydney, Australia.

Mijares, J. 2016, Close-up of Service Design Map 3, photograph, Sydney, Australia.

Header Image:
Mijares, J. 2016, Producing my own Service Design Map, photograph, Sydney, Australia.

Post 8: Possibilities for a Design Response to the Law Enforcement and Mental Health

During this week’s tutorial, we were prompted to begin focusing and brainstorming possibilities on formulating a designed response to our issue. In the focus of my issue, I considered all the stakeholder maps, previous brainstorming sessions, and the primary and secondary research I conducted on the law enforcement and mental health throughout the semester. In my last two blog posts, I had already begun considering possible design responses, ranging from creating several information visualisations based on user engagement and activity on the issue, to an interactive visualisation of key stakeholders that aims to educate others on the larger issue in my focus. However, this class gave me the opportunity to effectively delve into this problem, and explore with my peers on many possible design responses.

At first were given the task to define a problem statement by answering simple questions to guide us in the next stage of the lesson. It was a true test to which parts of my research throughout the semester really stood out to me and how these would direct my attention to the actual root of the problem. It was quite difficult to say the least because, as evident in my blog posts, my issue is intricately complex. It is riddled with many factors, stakeholders and histories that could be possibly carried into a year-long (or perhaps even longer) research expedition where you could finally acquire a truly objective and educated perspective as well as a possible solution to the problem. It doesn’t help that my issue is largely located in the United States, a culture that I don’t even live and breathe in but I’m only constantly influenced by from afar. Nevertheless, I was able to write the following for the questions. I tried to keep them succinct and straight to the point of what I really cared about and wanted to explore further.

Who does the problem affect? Be specific.
My problem mainly affects the law enforcement and mentally ill people who come into contact with the law enforcement. A secondary actor includes the general public – specifically those who engage with articles and media concerning the law enforcement and mental health.

What are the boundaries of the problem?
Lack of awareness and training on dealing with mentally ill persons.

Lack of insight into the procedures and the role of a police officer.
Lack of empathy and understanding on both sides of the issue.
Lack of understanding on the wider factors of the problem.
Stigma surrounding mental health and the affected persons.

When does the problem occur?
The problem occurs whenever someone who is deemed innocent by the public, is fatally shot by police. This occurs especially in conjunction with the Black Lives Matter movement and mentally ill people. Sensationalist media articles and reports are then released, leading to quick judgements and assumptions reigning the comments.

Where does the problem occur?
At this moment, the problem specifically occurs in the United States in correlation to their Black Lives Matter movement and the controversial gun law debate.

Why is this important?
Innocent people cannot keep dying for no reason, especially by a person who is supposed to be protecting the people. People need to be aware that there are ingrained cultural beliefs and attitudes in society that we were grown up to thinking that these things are okay. Assumptions and stereotyping is rampant, and they work subtly in influencing people’s decisions whether they are aware of it or not. This is one of the many possible reasons why African American people and mentally ill people are shot – ingrained attitudes from a wealth of media and society paint negative associations towards these minorities. Recognising these attitudes and perspectives with proper education and training may better improve police’s role in society and how they handle encounters with mentally ill people. Making the public more empathetic and understanding the complexities of the issue will allow more informed and objective perspectives that will spread towards wider society. It can create a much safer environment for the mentally ill, and improve how we perceive the law enforcement. It will also help in focusing on the wider actors participating in the issue, prompting them to push for change on smaller things before larger and more effective changes can happen.

From this with my peers, we then were prompted to brainstorm possible design responses based on our statements using three practice types of design that we could produce something out of – service design, information visualisation and generative design. Due to the lateness of when we were prompted to begin the task, my peers and I were only able to brainstorm ideas for ‘service design’ together, leaving myself to brainstorm the others myself at home. As I’ve stated in previous blog posts, brainstorming ideas in a collaborative setting is quite insightful and fun to do. You’re able to bounce ideas off one another easily and take away differing perspectives that you may have not thought of yourself. It opens new ways of seeing the problem, especially when you have each peer focusing on another part of the issue. They are able to consider other possible stakeholders and provide additional contexts to consider in the problem. Despite the short time that I’ve spent with my peers in this exercise, I was still able to generate ideas for my peers as they did for me.

The following five points are some of the potential design possibilities I identified in this brainstorming session, with and without my peers.

  1. Assisting officers in training using an interactive design to help them become more empathetic and aware of people with mental illness.
  2. Improve public perspectives on the issue using an interactive map that charts out the relationships between key stakeholders involved in my issue.
  3. Evaluate the public perception on police officers by having people with mental illness and no mental illness, and of any age, draw what they think a police officer is.
  4. Assisting officers in training by creating a database that is easily accessible through an app but exclusive to officers, that provides case examples of encounters with mentally ill people as well as suggesting better ways of approaching them.
  5. Enhance police training and encounter procedures by collecting information on how a wide scale of officers (those new and experienced) would approach a mentally ill person.

From these, below is a proposal of one that I am leaning more towards to in developing my direction for this subject.

In the rising issue of the excessive use of force by police and their many cases of fatally shooting mentally ill persons being reported on almost daily, the public perceptions of this authoritative role in society has been met with chaos. Doubts, anger and demand for justice against those who deal out the justice have emerged, instigating many debates on public online forums and comment sections. Despite all of this however, is this truly how people view the law enforcement?

Thus, I propose a design response using a collaboration between generative systems and information visualisation, where I would invite others to draw a simple drawing of how they view this person in blue. Afterwards, they’ll be prompted to provide a reason onto why they drew that way. The activity invites people of all ages, especially with those who have a mental illness, to participate in the exercise. In order to identify them, a simple age, gender, race and if they have a mental illness will be filled out beforehand. The exercise would consist of simple paper and pencils – coloured and lead – making it easy for the participants to understand what to do. Participants are also encouraged to be as open with their interpretation of the activity as they like. The works would then be collated and organised on a site, where users can then sort the drawings  by the participant’s gender, age, race and existence of mental illness. There is also an option to organise the drawings on a positive and negative spectrum to allow users to evaluate the wide variety of perspectives.

Through this design response, I hope to elicit the varying perspectives between the ideas of authority and protection. In visualising the data and analysing people’s reasons for drawing the way that they did, we can identify certain factors and trends that influence people’s perceptions of the police; especially of those who have mental illness. People would be able to share their own personal experiences with the police, generating empathy towards all those involved dependent on the situation. Identifying these factors can then prompt for changes in attitudes and behaviour towards the police as well as changes within the law enforcement’s system.


Mijares, J. 2016, Law Enforcement and Mental Health: Generative Systems Ideas, mind map, Sydney, Australia.

Mijares, J. 2016, Law Enforcement and Mental Health: Information Visualisation Ideas, mind map, Sydney, Australia.

Mijares, J. 2016, Law Enforcement and Mental Health: Service Design Ideas, mind map, Sydney, Australia.

Header Image:
Malland, J. 2016, Range Ta Chambre (Clean Up Your Room), arrestedmotion, viewed 13 September 2016, <>.

Post 7: Issue Mapping Mental Health

Throughout the course of this semester, I’ve been given many opportunities to collaborate with my peer focus group in brainstorming ideas concerning mental health. Each time it’s an interesting experience as each person is focusing on different aspects of the larger issue. For example, one is focusing on the mental health of farmers, another is focusing on the issue of misdiagnosis in mental health and our other peer is focusing on separation anxiety found in adults. The varying of perspectives allows for engaging discussion, new insights and a more informed view on both mental health in general and my own focus of the law enforcement involved in mental health.

The stakeholder maps explored in Week 3 brought forward an immense group of human and non-human actors involved in mental health. As stated in my previous blog post, these maps demonstrate how very complex and intricate mental health is, and if we begin to generalise the illness, it will become difficult to treat those with it and will continue to perpetuate its stigma. These ideas were revisited again in Week 4 and Week 5.

Week 4’s exercises of the word associations, allowed for instinctive ideas concerning our focus issues on mental health to be shared. It was interesting to see our individual words in comparison to the rest of the groups studying mental health. Nearly everyone had the same or similar words, with some exceptions being as less frequent than others such as racism, violence and authority. It showed me that the general perception of those studying the issue tend to associate the illness with more emotive words, describing the illness or feelings involved with it, rather than issues that affect it or are a part of it such as gender, expectations and racism.

The activity then moved onto using some of these words and documenting the stakeholders involved loosely or directly with each word. I found this exercise much more interesting to do since the focus of finding stakeholders was not on the general issue of mental health, but rather the specific ideas within the realm of mental health. It was another instinctive and fast paced exercise for our group, moving onto another word once we couldn’t figure out any more thoughts for one. It was a great process since it made us realise which actors and ideas stood out to us more.

Our analysis map from Week 3 and the word associations in Week 4 raised ideas that were controversial in mental health which was revisited specifically again in Week 5. Some of these included the stigma of mental health, social and gender expectations and media’s treatment of it. While I was away sick for this tutorial, my group caught me up on the activity for Week 5 and I was able to collect the images from the day. The first map explores a general brainstorm of the controversy and debates surrounding mental health, while the second takes a focused look into mental health stigma and culture. From studying the maps, the ideas written have more so reaffirmed my ideas and discussions from previous weeks. Stigma continually plays a large part in the treatment of mental health, especially in concerns with my own focus of the law enforcement. Through my research, it’s evident that the products of stigma such as ignorance and lack of awareness, has led to fatal shootings and excessive use of force in many law enforcement cases involved with mentally ill persons. Even more so when the very lack of awareness leads to mentally ill persons being labelled as criminals, and thrown into jail with no access to proper mental health care.


From co-creating the maps, I was able to explore the different focus issues of mental health that my peers were studying and become more informed on the general subject. The differing perspectives allowed for both affirmation and insightful thinking. Each person brought own their ideas that they gained through their individual research, making known of differing understandings of the stakeholders and issues that arise in mental health. An example can be seen in from a discussion while writing out our Week 3 stakeholder maps with my peer, who shared their thoughts on my focus issue on the law enforcement. At the time, I was more concerned with the mentally ill and the struggles they encountered with the police. They then explained to me that it wasn’t that simple when encountering a potentially dangerous person, with or without mental health. It led me to further research into both the police and mentally ill, which allowed me to become more informed as well as empathetic to the police on my issue. Even more so, the stakeholder maps throughout the weeks has allowed me to see the greater picture on my focus issue, seeing larger stakeholders such as government funding and the wider public health system that effect my focus issue directly.  Through it, I was able to structure my primary research exercise of my probe into investigating how much one’s perspective can change through educating themselves in similar way to what I had – by exposing themselves into differing opinions on the issue.

Thus, my initial ignorance has led me to possible design solutions that involves educating others on the larger stakeholders in place in regards to the law enforcement. Such solutions could include an interactive site or an animation that map out the specific stakeholders involved with my issue and how they attribute to law enforcement’s treatment of the mentally ill. Engaging experiences like these would allow for better informed perspectives that are hard to achieve in an issue where quick and emotive judgments reign. Overall from my own bias in the issue, this collaboration experience has been beneficial to me and has guided me into an enlightened and more informed direction with possible design solutions in mind.

Buisman, H., Lin, J. & Sobel, S. 2016, Controversy and Debate Detail Map, mind map, Sydney Australia.

Buisman, H., Lin, J. & Sobel, S. 2016, Controversy and Debate General Map, mind map, Sydney Australia.

Buisman, H., Lin, J. & Mijares, J. 2016, Mental Health: Human Stakeholders Map, mind map, Sydney, Australia.

Buisman, H., Lin, J. & Mijares, J. 2016, Word Association Stakeholders Map, mind map, Sydney Australia.

Lin, J. & Mijares, J. 2016, Mental Health: Non-Human Stakeholders Map, mind map, Sydney, Australia.

Lin, J. & Mijares, J. 2016, Mental Health: Stakeholders Analysis Map, mind map, Sydney, Australia.

Mijares, J. 2016, Word Association Exercise Process – Class words, photograph, Sydney, Australia.

Sobel, S. 2016, Word Association Exercise – Tagged words, photograph, Sydney, Australia.

Header Image:
Mijares, J. 2016, Close up of Word Association Stakeholders Map, photograph, Sydney, Australia.


Post 6: Scraping Reddit using ‘Police Mental Health’

As with the growing relevancy of my issue concerning the law enforcement and mental health, I decided to look to Reddit as my source for my findings. Reddit is social media platform that, according to its about page, “bridges communities and individuals with ideas, the latest digital trends, and breaking news…” It’s a website that takes the forum system to the next level, where users can create their own communities or ‘subreddits’ based on any topic of their choosing and have others engage or join in the community. Posts within these subreddits can range from text posts, images, or direct links to external sites that other users can comment and discuss on. The posts can also be ‘upvoted’ or ‘downvoted’ by users, allowing the highest of the posts reach the front page of Reddit or the subreddit.

I decided to use Reddit to scrape for data because I felt that with the individual communities aspect of the site, would allow me to find a plethora of different viewpoints from different communities on my subject that is not limited to 140 characters like in Twitter or tied to personal identity like Facebook. The sense of anonymity, coupled with a larger word limit and a degree of comfortability with like-minded users in each community, has great potential for interesting findings. Below is a flowchart (image 1) of my process in finding my results. I didn’t want to use keywords that would specifically find negative or positive results because I wanted to keep it very general, and allow for the site to provide me results based on what people were talking about right now.

Process Flowchart
My process flowchart in scraping Reddit for data (Mijares 2016)

As there were over thousands of results,  I decided to narrow my scope into the first three pages which contained a total of 72 posts, sorting them into the newest first. But before I delve into my results however, I’d like to discuss this interesting section I found at the bottom of the page. It displays how many posts that were found using my keywords in different communities. I was surprised to find that the number one subreddit for my search query was one for users to submit and share their own horror stories. The next subreddit was for a place to talk about and ask questions about your own relationship and, coming in right after that, is a support group for those who were raised by narcissistic parents.

While the top subreddit of horror stories was a complete surprise for me, it made me wonder why it became that way – is it because police and mental health are perfect topics to write horror stories about, or is it simply because the search engine found mentions of those words in the stories? Despite it might being the latter, as one who enjoys horror games and narratives, the genre is known to use the, “they used to suffer from an [insert mental illness]” back story trope for their characters (usually applied to the antagonist/s to explain the erratic behaviour); or they set their scenes in abandoned mental health asylums where ghosts of patients haunt every wall and object. You could say that this attributes to the stigma and it further perpetuates the negative assumptions to mental health; it paints those who have a mental illness or have been hospitalised in a mental health facility, in a fairly negative light. While this topic isn’t my specific focus on mental health, this finding produced an interesting insight into the how the users may perceive mental health in the internet space.

post 6Rb
The ‘narrow it down to a subreddit’ box located at the bottom of the results page (Reddit 2016)
Top 3 subreddits that contained posts with my keywords ‘Police Mental Health’. From left to right: /r/NoSleep, /r/Relationships, /r/RaisedByNarcissists (Reddit 2016)

Regarding my results to my data scraping exercise on the first three pages of my search query, I decided to tag each of the 72 posts with a description in order to tabulate these into the pie chart below. As expected, I found a whole array of posts that weren’t just opinion pieces on various topics related to mental health. The highest number of posts were those that shared direct links and excerpts of news articles relating to police and/or mental health.  Many of them spoke of a recent incident of a veteran who suicided in a parking lot of a Veterans Affairs medical hospital in Long Island, New York. Yet while these posts take the highest percentage, most of them don’t have any comments on them and are upvoted by one or two points. The second largest percentage however is taken by those seeking advice for someone else’s mental health. An example can be seen below where the user IAmBrownJesus, asks the community in the ‘Legal Advice’ subreddit for advice on how to deal with some issues in the hospitalisation of his father who suffers from schizophrenia. In general, a large chunk of the 72 posts were seeking advice, whether it be related to mental health or not. These posts had a lot more upvotes and engagement with their communities as well. The highest post in this category at this time of writing, is at 144 points, and is written by user ridl14 who details their narcissistic mother’s reactions towards their brother’s mental health incidents. A lot of the posts too involved incidents with the police ranging from negative tones of “being sick of them detaining me” to the more positive perspectives where they were a helpful ally.

The fact that advice posts take up most of percentage says a lot about the very nature of the internet space and mental health. While most of my previous research in my other blog posts were generally negative, with few in between being positive, users in these forum community spaces are quite open and comfortable in talking about their issues online and not with professionals outside the computer. These online communities are able to foster a sense of companionship with each other, each sharing similar experiences and/or beliefs in order to feel comfortable to seek valuable advice.

post 6Rf
My pie chart based on posts on the first three pages of the Reddit search results using the keywords ‘Police Mental Health’ (Mijares 2016)

In regards to using this data for future visual design responses, the large array of strong negative, positive and in between perspectives on my issue can prove to be interesting to show, especially if I increase my scope of data into a plethora of pages and sites. No matter how much viewers may know of my issue, they will be able to see on a spectrum in various contexts to what either the news outlets, blogs or individual users are saying about the issue and where they fall on the scale. They’ll be able to see where certain types of sites or communities fall on a spectrum of being more empathetic to the police or demanding justice for the mentally ill with zeal, or even which can do both. Another idea I had was finding common words used in article and post headings about my issue and then using those words to create word clouds whose size depends on word’s frequency of use. I say headings, because that’s usually what a reader reads first and what invites them to view the article or post. This means that authors of these posts are known to use ‘click-bait’ or generalised viewpoints to encourage the user to read it. I would hope that this would give insight for the viewer to see how media is able to manipulate perspectives of people, even more so those who don’t bother to read the actual article.

IAmBrownJesus 2016, [MI] Hospital refusing to treat mentally ill patient after transfer – Please Help!, Reddit, viewed 27 August 2016, <>.

Mijares, J. 2016, “‘Police Mental Health’ – Reddit Search Results (First 3 Pages)” Pie Chart, data visualisation, Sydney, Australia.

Mijares, J. 2016, Process Flowchart, data visualisation, Sydney, Australia.

ridl14 2016, My brother was sectioned yesterday; Nmum’s reactions, Reddit, viewed 27 August 2016, <>.

Reddit 2016, /r/nosleep, viewed 27 August 2016, <>.

Reddit 2016, /r/raisedbynarcisssists, viewed 27 August 2016, <>.

Reddit 2016, reddit, viewed  27 August 2016, <>.

Reddit 2016, /r/relationships, viewed 27 August 2016, <>.

Images (including the header image) included in this post were recorded by Jasmine Mijares (2016) of the Reddit site.

Post 5: An Ethnographic Approach to the Law Enforcement and Mental Health

While secondary research has been quite valuable thus far in my research process, I’ve found that personal accounts of experiences with mental illness are much more engaging to read. Thus, I’ve taken it upon myself to interview a peer on the general subject of mental illness to garner their experiences and thoughts, as well as probing for their opinion on the law enforcement’s involvement with mental illness. I structured my interview with general questions about mental illness as well with some hypothetical questions thrown in to observe their thought process. Below are the questions I prepared:

  1. What do you think about our generation and mental health?
  2. Where do you draw the line between a natural occurrence and a diagnosed disorder?
  3. Would you tell your employer if you had a mental health problem? Why or why not?
  4. If you had/have mental health or know someone who has/had mental health, when do you think it’s okay to call a helpline/seek professional help?
  5. What level do you seek to help yourself and what level do you seek to help another?
  6. What are your thoughts on the law enforcement’s involvement with mental health?

My peer, a 21 year old female university design student, was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety at a very young age. Even now, she still takes prescribed medication for it. She detailed to me her experience with the illness and how throughout high school, she became someone who others would seek help from their own issues because of her experience with it. In regards to my particular focus of research into the law enforcement and mental health, she stated that “…there’s always scales in these things.” She had difficulty trying to differentiate and measure the innocence of a mentally ill person. While she described that there’s people “who have mental illnesses that can be managed… and improved with appropriate assistance,” and how “putting [mentally ill persons] in jail can have really bad mental health impacts,” she interjected with, “but what if they’re a murderer and they’re going to go out killing people?” Hence, this is why she believes there’s a scale to this. She feels if there’s opportunity for people to have a chance to engage with society again through appropriate assistance, then “I don’t see why you need to shoot them or lock them up forever.”

“If someone is able to be monitored— in a discreet way— and is able to have the appropriate resources to function again in society without causing harm to  other people, I’d really want that to happen.”

Another interesting point she described was how difficult it is to diagnose someone “because it’s hard to blur that line [between natural reaction and actual illness] since you can just ask someone questions, but you don’t know if what they’re saying is the truth.” This very idea of ‘truth’ in diagnosis of mental illness really struck with me because of what I’ve researched previously. I’ve read of police cases where they take a mentally ill person to the hospital for a mental health assessment, only to be let go the day after just because they say that they don’t feel suicidal anymore. It’s such an odd balance between the freedom of choice for the mentally ill person and the authority of a social worker who has to be the judge in these cases of treatment. I asked my peer what she thought about this particular case example, and she exclaimed that it abhorred her “that they would just let him go” and “they should have monitored him for a bit longer.” She described that it was possibly just a lack of training and that “better protocol” should be put in place.

The interview overall proved be a fairly fruitful experience, and became more of a casual, yet passionate discussion that lasted for around 30 minutes. I probably should have focused my questions specifically to my research focus, as topics drifted across diagnosis, stigma, the online space, self-esteem, trust, relationships and the law enforcement. However, in correlation with my probe, I didn’t want to discuss so much, and rather receive instinctive perspectives on the topic, letting them educate themselves like I did by using the probe I’ve given them. You can view the full transcript interview of it here.

The probe I gave to my interviewee was a simple search each day on different sites of their choosing using very general keywords relating to the police and mental health, and recording their thoughts and experiences. I encouraged them to find something positive in their search, to gauge how difficult it was to find something of praise due to general negative public opinion on the topic. You can view the full results document here.

Mental Health Probe Results 5a
A screen cap of a finding that my interviewee recorded in her Facebook search (Anonymous 2016)
Mental Health Probe Results 5e
A screen cap of a finding that my interviewee recorded in her Twitter search (Anonymous 2016)

Overall, the most valuable product I got from my probe was knowing that someone out there is a little more educated now in the topic of the law enforcement and mental health. While it didn’t necessarily change her perspective on what she had currently in regards to the topic, it asserted and made her more aware of the smaller things that need to change in order for larger society and systems to change. She noted in her findings how there was a lack of medical staff who “currently seem unable to handle the number of people that need help and how “the world needs clarification on laws regarding criminal acts verses acts by mentally ill.” Her perspective in contrast to the interview seems to have widened slightly, from instead of focusing on what the law enforcement needs to do, she looks at the larger picture into how governments and the public health systems fall into the scene.

Despite all this however, I don’t feel I’ve gained much of anything new from what I already know about my topic. So while my probe was successful in educating my peer, it wasn’t as successful in adding new information to my research. It would have made more sense if I interviewed someone from who was part of the law enforcement or part of the public health system to obtain better insights and firsthand accounts of incidents relating to my topic. Nonetheless, it was an interesting exercise to conduct, and has given me ideas for the future assessment tasks in this subject. The following is a five point summary of what I’ve gained from these exercises.

  1. People need to be educated on the law enforcement and mental health to see the larger picture.
  2. It’s difficult to measure the innocence of a mentally ill person in relation to the police.
  3. There is a definite lack of treatment for mentally ill persons.
  4. Truth plays a large factor in the diagnosis of a mental illness.
  5. Smaller things need to change in order for the larger society and system to change in regards to the law enforcement and mental health.

Interview conducted by Jasmine Mijares at the DAB Building 6, University of Technology Sydney on the 16th of August 2016.

Images included in this post were recorded by my interviewee who wishes to remain anonymous (2016) of the sites, Facebook and Twitter.

Header Image:
Malland, J. 2016, Range Ta Chambre (Clean Up Your Room), arrestedmotion, viewed 26 August 2016, <>.

Post 4: The Counted

The Counted (2015) is an ongoing project developed by the Guardian. It was designed and produced by Kenan Davis, Rich Harris, Nadja Popovich and Kenton Powell. It’s reported on by Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland and Jamiles Lartey. (The Guardian 2015)

The Counted (2015) is an ongoing project developed the Guardian a news source with three international sites situated in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia. This project however is specific to its US edition, where it collates and organises police reports, witness statements and information released by news outlets to archive and calculate the number of people killed by police in the US. For each entry of a victim, there is demographic information, location, whether the victim was armed, how they died, which police department killed them, the outcome of the case and, a short report on the incident with links to other news sources to read more about the event.

According to the database’s ‘About’ page, the reason why this project exists is because the “US government has no comprehensive record of the number of people killed by the law enforcement.” Ever since the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Michael Brown in 2014, many protests and debates has been prompted worldwide concerning police’s use of force and questioning their authoritative role. The project is driven to publicising the law enforcement’s accountability with these deaths as they believe it is “a prerequisite for an informed public discussion about the use of force by police.” Additionally, it was to counter the already existing and notably ineffective voluntary system conducted by the FBI where “law enforcement agencies may or may not choose to submit their annual count of ‘justifiable homicides’, which it defines as ‘the killing of a felon in the line of duty’.”

Cases of Dylan Liberti, Limichael Shine and Ambrosed Mecklenburg who exhibited signs of mental illness (The Guardian 2016)

The Guardian collects its data through “police reports, witness statements… regional news outlets, research groups and open-reporting projects such as websites Fatal Encounters and Killed by Police.” However, they hope to become a “verified crowdsourced system” which allows users to contribute to the database by submitting their own tips and witness accounts of the incidents, be it a new case or an existing one. They have various options for users to do this such as using their online form, email, contacting them confidentially using their PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption key, sending them files via their SecureDrop system, joining their Facebook community or tweeting them at their Twitter account. The amount of options gives users many options to feel comfortable in contributing to the database, and even more so to have the option to be anonymous in these contributions.

The ‘Send a Tip’ page on the site to encourage users to submit information for the database (The Guardian 2015)

The site itself has a simple yet effective layout, coloured schemed with white and spots of a warm yellow against a variety of darker greys. Scrolling down the page reveals a boxed grid of the victims, each tile labelled with the date of their death, their name, age, how they died, location and a black and white photo of themselves if available. The tiles are sorted by date, which are then grouped by header with the month and total of deaths labelled next to it. Some tiles in the grid such as Philando Castile and Alton Sterling’s cases are coloured yellow and, take up two horizontal places in the grid to highlight their larger significance. Readers also have the option to view the data on a map of the US, giving the data a geographical visualisation on the cases.

The header of the site which give overviews of the data collected thus far (The Guardian 2015)
The geographical visualisation of the data, allowing users to use an interactive map to investigate the cases (The Guardian 2016)

While despite my primary focus on the law enforcement and mental health, looking at the wider issue of the law enforcement, their role and their use of force is key for myself to understand my issue better. Many of the victims included in this database were mentally ill, so I feel it’s incredibly important for my own knowledge that I use this as a source of information. Furthermore, one of the main reasons I focused into this issue in the area of mental health, was because of all the incidents concerning the cases under the Black Lives Matter movement and of the heated debate around US police brutality in general.

The Guardian 2015, The Counted, viewed 19 August 2016, <;

Images (including the header image) included in this post were recorded by Jasmine Mijares (2016) of The Counted site.