• Kasia Szczęsna

Digital Portfolio - Mental health project #3 - background, goals, target audience

Like I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, my main project for this term was ‘Design your career’ and this mental health project will be much smaller. Even though, I’m not planning to develop it as much at this stage, I think it will have great potential for development in the future.As I described in the first post about this project, I will be collaborating with my friend Persia who is a part of a Time To Change, a social movement that aims to change people’s minds about mental health. She is so-called champion, a person who regularly is involved in charity and helps them to run some of the events around London. Recently, she became a leader of a support group that she runs every week. Its goal is to talk, understand and share personal experiences related to depression and anxiety. What I believe  was a main reason she became this important figure in this movement is the fact she herself had been struggling with mental health for the past few years. Being so open about her struggles made her stronger and interested in helping others. I believe seeing this kind of strength is helpful not only for people in her group, but for everyone. Personally, she made a huge impact on the way I perceived this issue before and I admire her as a person and a friend.

This project is going to be physical for a reason. Being physically active for people struggling with mental health is a great way to improve. “Active body - active mind” is often a common phrase that can relate even to this topic. Of course, I do realise that reading can’t be compared to for example exercising, but even holding a piece of paper and feeling it in our hands can be comforting in a way. Digital things available online often get forgotten very quickly and it is easy to just close a tab and move to the other thing. 

My target audience would be young people age 15-30, probably somehow affected by mental health illnesses in a direct (they suffer from mental health problems) or indirect (someone in their close circle suffers from it) way. My goal, similar to Time to Change movement, is to normalise mental health as a serious issue and show that any stigmas that exist today should not be relevant anymore. Mental health is not a thing people should be ashamed of and this subject should be talked about more often. Not only by seeing the numbers in reports and seeing general statistics in health magazine, but by sharing real-life stories about people who actually been through all of this. 

What I found very interesting is the fact that a lot of people suffering from mental health often ‘keep track’ of what is going on. They either collect things (hospital wristband) or they write journals or share some of their thoughts online (of course, when someone is dealing with a very serious stage of depression, these things might not apply). In Persia’s case, it was very similar. She was scrapbooking and journaling throughout her hospital journey, keeping track of her thoughts. When she started getting better, she put her whole journey into a 2-thousand words essay which she sent over to me. She even agreed to share this essay with everyone which made a great foundation to the contextual part of our project. Below I copied some of the quotes which I found relevant.

  • My eating disorder developed very unexpectedly, and spiralled out of control incredibly quickly. What began as determination to follow a healthier lifestyle transformed into a dark determination to become invisible, to shrink into nothing. 

  • My relationships started to crumble.

  • I used to self harm, a lot. I started at young age around 9 or ten, not long after I discovered my sister did it. There was a vast amount of reasons I self harmed, one confession being that I wanted attention. 

  • I weighed myself every morning, delicately quiet when putting the scales on the kitchen floor careful not to wake anybody up.

  • It’s important that you are aware that even if an eating disorder is a symptom of BPD, a form of self harm let’s say, it’s still an eating disorder.

  • My anorexia and BPD were what I would call frenemies. Best friends, but entirely toxic for each other. 

  • No one eating disorder is the same. My anorexia, my story is different to the opposite me at the dining table. And just because we both have BPD, still does not make our story the same.

  • Treating eating disorders requires patience. It requires you to take time to listen to and understand every individual. 

Our plan is to combine her personal experiences/journey with the research I did on a general mental health state in UK and present it in an interesting way using visuals to achieve some kind of a data visualisation.