Visualising Mental Health Exhibition is go!

Just a quick note to let you know that the Visualising Mental Health Exhibition is now live at the Kerry Packer Gallery. If you are in Adelaide, in the city, at the West Terrace campus of University of South Australia, consider dropping in and having a look.

You can simply visit the exhibition anytime between the 8th and 23rd October. Well, more correctly the gallery is open Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm (Thursdays until 7pm).

I’ve not yet been to see the exhibition yet, but I will be at the opening forum on the 10th. The South Australian Mental Health Commissioner Chris Burns will be speaking. We’ll have a panel discussion on the topic of mental health involving myself, Jane Andrew from Match Studio and Nicholas Procter from UniSA. You’ll also get to hear from students who have developed prize winning projects over the last couple of years.

For the panel discussion, we will take some questions from the audience, but will also be answering some preordained questions. I’ve identified a few of these questions below with my answers.

In your view, how has the VMH program developed since the first cohort?
Since launching in 2016, The VMH program has involved other psychologists in generating the topics that students work on. We are getting better at choosing mental health and psychology-related topics that translate well to being communicated in novel and interesting ways. We developed the VMH website so that the activities and outputs of the program can be more broadly disseminated. We are attracting the attention of groups that wish to take some of the student projects to the next stage of development such as SA Health, SA Mental Health Commission and the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist.

What is a key highlight when mentoring the students and collaborating with the practicing psychologists?
For me the biggest highlight is when student groups develop concepts that totally take me by surprise, that is, I could never have imagined coming up with the concept.

How important is it to have sponsorship for the development of a winning prototype into a limited print run?
Student projects typically need additional development before being ready for a limited print run. This means paying for experienced designers to support and mentor the students in the process. Also, most products have some kind of cost associated with their production (e.g. printing, construction etc). Any sponsorship we get for product development is greatly appreciated. It is also worth noting that by supporting students to get their concept to the development stage gives them the full experience of what it is like to create a product/concept from start to finish. Sponsorship allows us to give students the more complete design experience. Finally, getting limited print runs of products opens up opportunities for us to evaluate their impact in the desired setting. For example, we’ll be testing a card game for psychologists to use in clinical practice. We’ll also be testing a range of tea products for use in aged care facilities.

The inaugural Forum is a great opportunity to discuss the important role the VMH program plays in communicating complex ideas to the general public – for you, why is it important to have a public dialogue about visualising mental health?
Mental health is an important topic to discuss regardless, so that people understand what constitutes mental health and how to build it. Doing so in the context of the Visualising Mental Health program, means having these conversations in an environment of creativity and novelty and fun. People can see how mental health can be embedded into multiple layers of life, not just conversations about mental illness.

As per above, why is it important to involve the State Government in this public dialogue?
When you are looking to embed concepts of mental health and wellbeing into all layers of life, you need to have the backing of organisations that can actually make this happen.

What is the significance of launching and timing the VMH exhibition on World Mental Health Day each year?
World Mental Health Day helps focus attention of the broader public on the topic of mental health. It is a good time for all groups who work in the space to showcase what they are doing.

How does the VMH program impact/engage in broader academic research focused on neuroscience?
This is really one of the next steps for us in terms of looking at how we evaluate some of the products that come out of the project. We’d be keen for research groups in the space to talk with us about potential collaborations.

What impact have you seen already from the ways in which psychologists use the communication tools?
We’ve only just started familiarising psychologists with the ideas and concepts that are coming out of this program. This program is very novel in that it is developing products that might have clinical uses, so the field is only just starting to catch on to the possibilities.

How have your colleagues responded to the VMH program and some of the tools they have seen and used with their patients/clients?
I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from colleagues about what we are doing with the VMH program. This is reflected by the fact that the South Australian Branch of the Australian Psychological Society is a key supporter of the project. At this stage I think many are waiting to see how this program develops and once we get test products in the hands of psychologists, the project will move to another level, because we’ll be starting a more sophisticated dialogue with practising professionals on the types of clinical resources they need.