Visualising Mental Health
On Wednesday the 11th of October, Match Studio and the University of South Australia launched the 2nd Visualising Mental Health Exhibition. One of the ongoing challenges of psychology is understanding mental illness as it is experienced by the individual. How are people who have never experienced depression, anxiety, OCD or schizophrenia able to relate to those who do? Getting different perspectives of a range of mental health conditions can be the start of prevention and life changing treatments for many people. And this is why Dr Gareth Furber, approached Match Studio and set the students of Visual Communications the challenge of interpreting mental health.
Visualising Mental Health takes a multi-disciplinary approach toward community inclusion by using the science of psychology and combining it with carefully interpreted creative insight. In many ways, it’s giving a voice to those who can’t always describe what they are experiencing in words, and gives them other avenues to translate subjective experiences. What I love about the exhibition is the pure brilliance in the concepts developed and how well they translate into their respective media. Mediums range from app development, board games, storybooks, interactive learning, animations and tea. Yes, Tea.
Amitea (Olivia Hill, Leigh Down, Adam Lockier, Chloe Grimes)
Amitea is a concept that promotes personal communication through tea. It sounds very simple, and in effect it is, but what makes this different is the focus on different emotions. Each flavour has a different emotion (e.g. anger, fear, joy) and has questions that promote communication through personal experiences. Inspired by the relationships with different generations of family and friends, Olivia, Chloe, Adam and Leigh saw the opportunity to promote a deeper engagement with those around us and strengthen the connective bonds within our family and friendships.
Left to Right: Chloe Grimes, Olivia Hill and Leigh Down
Scout Meets the Sun (Ella McDonald, Britney Harmer, Jessica Brown, Jordan D’Agostino)
Scout Meets the Sun is a story of the journey from darkness to the light. It is aimed at a younger audience; however, I was captivated by how easily it can be related to situations experienced in adult life. The main character is Scout, a skeleton with a heart. The story focuses on helping children understand negative emotions; sadness, confusion, fear and nervousness are feelings that can be commonplace in childhood. Therefore, exploration and education about the nature of negative thoughts or depressive moods should be part of our storytelling to kids.
The authors and illustrators of the book wanted a gender-neutral main character. Jessica explains, “Our research showed us that kids identified and related to a character with no gender alignment, as they could visualise themselves in the same situation.” While Scout starts in a dark place of brooding clouds, howling winds, thunderstorms and rain, his story ends with clearing skies, golden yellow sunlight and happiness. It’s a beautifully told story and it is worth reading every word.
Left to Right: Britney Harmer, Jessica Brown and Jordan D’Agostino
Bagel (Sandra Serrato, Renee Green)
With a focus on children between the ages of 5 and 10, the work is a story book accompanied by a stuffed toy dog called Bagel that is designed to help communicate emotions and understand empathy. Bagel uses storytelling of different scenarios that could commonly cause stress within young children. The example at the exhibition is ‘Bagel doesn’t want to go to school today’. Through storytelling and physical touch, the kids build a rapport with Bagel and can ask questions to parents and guardians through him. For example, “Bagel was sad today because….”; “Bagel got angry today when.…”. Bagel helps to promote conversation that otherwise might not have happened.
During development, Sandra and Renee consulted with school kids to help with the design. Colour, naming, appearance, textures and weight were all considered. For the most part, Bagel replicates a real dog, he’s not just a stereotypical stuffed toy, he has attributes that make him unique.
Co-creater of Bagel Renee Green, tells me that it’s not only about children using Bagel as a medium for communicating emotion, but offers parents a tool to help empathise with the emotional range and needs children have. Renee says, “It can be difficult to relate to the stress in our children’s lives, as the world we lived in at their age has vastly changed.” A great little touch in the story books are the tips and hints on how to have constructive conversations with our kids. It helps educate parents around empathy and emotions, which strongly helps us build greater bonds with our kids.
Co-creater of Bagel, Renee Green
With over 40 exhibits including the artwork of the extremely talented Jade Hartford and Henry Stentiford, Visualising Mental Health is free and open to the public Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm until the 27th of October. Located in the Kerry Packer Gallery in the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Center, 55 North Terrace, City West UniSA Campus. I highly recommend you visit this amazing exhibition and see a different perspective of mental health.