Welcome to the Visualising Mental Health website

Hello you!

Welcome to the Visualising Mental Health website.

My name is Gareth and I am one of the Visualising Mental Health team. I am a psychologist by trade, but please don’t hold that against me. Also, I am not reading your mind.

I wanted to use this first blog post on the site to give you a little bit of history of this initiative, as well talk about where we see this initiative going in the future.

This initiative and website grew out of a fortuitous meeting of two disciplines

Visualising Mental Health (VMH) started out as a conversation between myself and Dr Jane Andrew, from Match studio at the University of South Australia (UniSA).

Match Studio is a research and learning space within the School of Art, Architecture and Design at UniSA that gets students working with academics, researchers and industry partners to come up with novel solutions to real-world problems.

I was keen to develop some kind of collaborative project that focused on communicating key psychological and mental health concepts to the general public. I came from the perspective that the discipline of psychology has generated lots of very valuable wisdom about coping with, and thriving in life, but psychologists aren’t always particularly good at communicating that to the wider public. Some of us do clinical work (seeing clients), some of us do research and write papers, but not many of us devote a lot of time to larger scale efforts to communicate what we know to a wider audience. A lot of what gets talked about in the wider media is ‘mental illness’ which is important but is only one component of what psychology has to offer the wider population.

I wanted to change that, and I thought collaborating with professional designers and communicators, whose job and skillset it is to develop communication devices that resonate with large audiences would be the perfect way to do this.

It took a while, but eventually Jane and I shaped the VMH initiative. This is how it works.

We get design students to come up with cool ways to communicate mental health concepts to the general public

In the first semester, as part of one of their ‘studios’ (i.e. a practicum), 3rd Year Communication and Design students organise themselves into teams and select from a choice of 4-5 psychology-themed topics (provided by participating psychologists). A topic might be something along the lines of:

  • What are emotions? What are normal emotions? How do I better manage those that I find unpleasant?
  • How do we convince university students to seek help when they are emotionally struggling?
  • What is theory of mind and how can understanding it help us develop better relationships?

Over the period of a couple of months, these teams work with their design/communication lecturers and participating psychologists to develop some novel methods for communicating the answers to these questions to the general public. The participating psychologists help the students understand the topic. The design/communication lecturers help the students apply what they’ve been learning in their degree about effective communication.

Each group of students develops three concepts that they formally present to their lecturers and participating psychologists. A discussion ensues in which the students are guided towards developing one of those concepts in more detail. Sometimes students might be encouraged to blend concepts into a single design.

They then have around a month to develop a final design/communication prototype that represents their unique take on the topic and their unique communication method. They present this more complete concept to their lecturers and assisting psychologists. The presentation, plus a comprehensive workbook showing how they arrived at the final concept are graded by their design/communication lecturers.

Most of the concepts then get shown at the Kerry Packer Gallery, at the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre during Mental Health Week in October.

Now, thanks to the amazing team at Cre8d, these concepts are now getting shown more widely, via this website.

This website is your ticket to exploring many of the student design concepts that have emerged over the last few years

On this website you will find a large selection of the student projects that have emerged from the VMH initiative. Because this is an ongoing initiative, new projects will be added each year. Please take the time to explore these projects and see some of the amazing ideas that have emerged from this unique collaboration of psychology and communication design. If particular projects really take your fancy, get in contact with us about how you might be able to help us take them further. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions.

In addition to perusing the projects, please take the time to read our blog as well. On the blog, the VMH team will update you on how the broader VMH initiative is progressing, let you know about upcoming events featuring the student projects (e.g. the yearly exhibition), keep you updated on which student projects are being developed further, and also talk more generally about the intersection of psychology and design.

If you have questions or ideas, we’d love to hear from you

We are constantly looking for new partners, contributors, and supporters. If the VMH initiative sounds like something you want to know more about – get in contact with me – gareth.furber@gmail.com – I’m sure we can find a way to work together.