The potential for the Market
There is a large market for personal thoughts and stories, which is evident through a new youtube trend. Searching, ‘i just bought a stranger’s diary for’ (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=i+just+bought+a+strangers+diary), displays how people are interested in personal thoughts and are willing to pay money for it, at times for hundreds of dollars.
This also shows the potential to spread awareness worldwide – not to mention the possibility of online distribution.
I have also conducted a survey in regards to who would buy the intended product (a book/magazine of sufferers’ daily lives); the majority mentioned that they would rather buy a book than a magazine, but all have said ‘yes’.
A cafe/bar manager stated that they would be willing to do a monthly subscription, given that it is at a fair price (financials will be explored in Project B).
Interviews with ‘Sufferers’
I first built a rapport with them before proceeding to ask them the questions. We shared stories, and through that, I feel like they were able to be more comfortable with talking to me and trusted with my project. The interview was mainly just a general discussion of how they would envision the project, however, I did include a few questions that I used in all interviews:
Do you have any interest in creativity or art?
If so, why?
Do you practice any creative activities yourself on a weekly basis?
If yes, what do you do? And why?
If no, why not?
Do you enjoy reading on a regular basis?
Would you personally be willing to write a piece about yourself to be made public?
Interviewing a Psychiatrist
I have contacted a psychiatrist and am hoping to hear from them.
Mental disorder has previously plagued my life; I was isolated and mocked, despite being a representative of multiple sport teams during high school, by my family and peers. This led me to self-destructive ways, having considered self-harm and undergone substance abuse, instead of seeking for help. It is only recently that I have been able to establish a form of foundational support; by reaching out to others who have faced the same struggles, and finding liberation through creative practices.
My vision is to provide a service that is able to:
Share knowledge to others about the hardships of mental disorder; to boost public empathy/sympathy to rid of the negative stigma.
Provide those who suffer a voice and to reassure other sufferers that they aren’t alone; a group that they can reach out to.
By achieving these, people with a mental disorder can feel liberated from emotional imprisonment and seek help to prevent future harm.
After research and getting in contact with some of the current organisations that deal with mental health and disorder. I was able to draw out a map that can help accentuate the gaps – aspects of the current organisations that are not meeting the current issue. Particularly, the negative stigma that revolves around mental disorder.
A global crisis. No matter which country you go to, it seems as though the percentage of the population with a mental disorder is increasing.
In Australia, the mental disorder numbers have increased by 37% between 1990 and 2010 [Harvey et al, 2016]. Currently, about 20% of people will experience a form of mental disorder in a typical year, totalling to an approximate 5 million people suffering annually, and 45% of Australians between the age of 16 – 85 will experience a mental disorder in their lives [Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018]. This number goes up to a staggering 9 million people who will suffer from such difficulties here in Australia alone. This percentage is similar to the United States, where slightly more than 50% of young adults will experience a mental disorder in their lives [Pedersen and Paves, 2014], with the total number of people being around 23 million in the United States [Statistica, 2018]. The sheer number of people affected by mental disorder can help illustrate the need to increase awareness and sympathy (and empathy) towards the sufferers as many disorders can be influenced by stressors of the individual’s environment. Many, along with myself, know that mental disorder is an existing issue, however, did not know the gravity of which the issue is affecting our global and local communities. If 1 in 5 people are affected yearly in Australia, then on average there are roughly 4 students in my university classes who suffer, per class, this year. However, I am unable to identify who they are because no one is ever willing to talk about it, but why? The only person that I can truly identify as someone who has suffered severely is myself, and for the most part, have ‘recovered’. Despite all of this, I have been unable to open up to my peers until this opportunity to pursue a social movement that I am personally passionate about albeit I still find myself trying to be economical with the information that I give.
Our society has gone through multiple social movements that have essentially improved the lives of the marginalised, such as; the LGBT community and Black Lives Matter, by removing associated negative stigma, at least from the majority of the population, and increasing awareness via mediums of empathy. The negative stigma of mental disorder dates back to 9,000 years of human history, displaying a constant conflict of ethics and beliefs. Anthropologists discovered and identified the first signs of Trephination (the drilling of holes into the skull) as a ritual to release the evils spirits residing in the hosts head dating back to 6,500 BC [Fareras, 2018]. This point of human history can be identified as the birth of the negative stigma that plagues our modern society today. In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church faced multiple economic and politic conflicts and decided to re-establish evil and demonic presence within those who displayed alternative thinking, which led to witch hunting [Quintanilla, 2010]. In the 16th Century, hospitals and asylums were established, the most significant of which is Bedlam, in order to protect the public from people with a mental disorder [Fareras, 2018]. Even in modern society, people who suffer from a mental disorder are constantly looked down on and isolated from the community. In my teenage years, I suffered from depression, and despite being a ‘jock’ who represented my high school in multiple teams, I was mocked and unable to maintain stable relationships, including within my family tree, making me feel isolated and alone.
In 2014, Pedersen and Paves conducted a study that showed 20% of College students who had mental health disorder refused to get help because “[they] worry what others will think” [Pedersen and Paves, 2014]. Additionally, the study also showed that 65% of college students would agree with the statement, “most people would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment”, but in reality, only 25% of the sample gathered actually do look down on people with mental treatment [Pedersen and Paves, 2014]. It seems as though the 9,000-year negative association of mental disorder is still completely ingrained in our society, even though our current society has shown the most empathy towards our holistic ecosystem – we consistently fight for animal rights, the fight for human equality, preserving mother nature, and more. This causes me to believe that our modern society can help alleviate the negative stigma embedded in the public, we just need a little push.
Mental Health in Indigenous Communities
Indigenous Australians have had a long history of public association with mental disorders, however, only a few have dedicated the time to study the possible reasonings behind this reputation. Since the first European settlers, the Indigenous Australians have faced a constant ‘dis-remembrance’ of their culture and people, from having a massive depopulation due to exposure to diseases (introduced by the Europeans) to relocation imposed by the invasive nature of the settlers. This in itself can be enough to cause mass depression in the community. In 2001, the Indigenous suicide rate was 56% higher than non-Indigenous, with 83% of the suicides recorded were from individuals younger than 35 years old. In 2004, mental disorder cases were double the number of non-Indigenous sufferers [Hunter, 2007]. These tragic occurrences can etch the minds of loved ones, and thus creating a causal effect within the greater community. An example of which can be the traumatic experience of a child seeing their parent dead after committing suicide, developing symptoms of PTSD, depression and resentment.
However, it should also be noted that mental disorder can be catalysed by many different factors, including the social and environmental exposure of the individuals. Hunter’s study reveals the lack of attention that the Indigenous community is receiving in terms of gentrification and planning, those who live in rural areas have the tendency to have lower qualities of education thus much lower employment rates which consequently affects their income. This lack of income can then influence liveability negatively, especially in the socio-economic structure of monetary values in the lifestyles brought in by the Europeans. Simply put, there is an inadequate supply of accessible services, including medical (mental and physical), for Indigenous communities living in rural places due to the “lack of understanding of the difficulties Indigenous people experience in accessing help” [Hunter, 2007].
Reconfirming the Beliefs of My Social Enterprise
The social enterprise will focus on bridging the relational gap between ‘sufferer-sufferer’ and ‘sufferer-non-sufferer’ by removing the negative stigma and promote a social movement through creative writing and personal stories.
After more research, the potential benefits of the motif holds true. The creative writing and stories can serve as a source of understanding, such as the Indigenous experience, which can lead to empathic social movements to help rectify the injustice imposed on within our society, particularly those on mental disorder.
It also helps illustrate how mental disorders are affecting everyone, in Australia one-fifth of people yearly and almost half will suffer in their life. Let me paint some images for you:
- If you are in a family of five, statistically speaking, one of your family members will probably suffer at some stage of the year.
- An average classroom will hold an average of 20-25 students. This means you will know 4-5 people who will suffer from a mental disorder, per class.
- Roughly every other person you meet will suffer a mental disorder at some stage in their life.
Despite the number of people affected, the majority of people are unwilling to open up or seek help due to the stigma of judgement and image of ‘weakness’. The written pieces can, therefore, help to reach out to those who feel isolated – this inspires me to also promote autonomy and the possibility of allowing previous writers to help train, educate and connect with new aspiring story-tellers (writers) – to create a sense of comradery. The initial target of consumers will primarily be the friends and families of the writer, they are the main foundation for their sense of isolation or community, to help them visualise the struggling and possibly initiate better understanding of certain interactions. There is also a potential to appeal to the general public as they may also know of someone who may be suffering from similar mental disorders, access to the book/magazine can easily be viable through the internet (ebooks, podcasts, online bookstore). It could be a subscription-based magazine – although more research will be needed for this.
The research has also inspired me to explore the possibility of involving people from different backgrounds to use as ‘themes’ for each volume. For example:
- Volume 1 could deal with mental health disorder in rural Indigenous communities
- Volume 2 could deal with the effects of discrimination on mental disorders in transgender people in the workplace
- Volume 3 could deal with the hardships of a refugee due to post-traumatic and mental disorder
All of these could also lead to potential partners for each issue of the writing; Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV), Victorian Pride Centre, Refugees Welcome Australia, and Headspace. The magazine or book could even be a side project of The Big Issue.
The Social Enterprise will never forcibly make the mentally vulnerable to write or tell their stories. We will only consist of writers who are voluntarily there, providing them with access to our creative writing and training sessions, as well as a platform with the opportunity to be understood.
ABC. (2018). You Can’t Ask That [Video]. Retrieved from http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/you-cant-ask-that/LE1517H008S00
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018). Mental health services in Australia, Prevalence and policies – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/mental-health-services/mental-health-services-in-australia/report-contents/summary/prevalence-and-policies
Farreras, I. (2018). History of Mental Illness. Retrieved from http://nobaproject.com/modules/history-of-mental-illness
Harvey, S., Deady, M., Wang, M., Butterworth, P., Christensen, H., & Mitchell, P. (2017). Is the prevalence of mental illness increasing in Australia?. The Medical Journal Australia, 206(11), 490 – 493.
Hunter, E. (2007). Disadvantage and Discontent: A Review of Issues Relevant to the Mental Health of Rural and Remote Indigenous Australians. Australian Journal Of Rural Health, 15, 88 – 93. doi: 10.111/j.1440-1584.2007.00869.x
Mindframe. (2007). Mental Illness Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.mindframe-media.info/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/6009/Mental-Illness-Facts-and-Statistics.pdf
Pedersen, E., & Paves, A. (2018). Comparing perceived public stigma and personal stigma of mental health treatment and seeking in a young adult sample. Psychiatry Research, 219, 143 – 150.
Quintanilla, B. (2010). Witchcraft or Mental Illness. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/schizoaffective/witchcraft-or-mental-illness
Statistica. (2018). Number of youth and young adult population in the U.S. 2000-2010 | Statistic. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/221843/number-of-youth-and-young-adult-population-in-the-us/
Wikipedia. (2018). Hippocrates. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocrates
What is the social idea?
To encourage members of the public who are facing mental difficulties (or labelled as mentally ill) to gather and express their stories and strife, through creative processes, to provide an opportunity to be acknowledged and understood by others. By doing so, it could help catalyse a social movement, via increased public awareness, that promotes empathy toward the ‘mentally ill’ whilst boosting their self-worth.
What is the business case?
Currently, there is an increasing population of people with mental illness. Many of whom, despite their already vulnerable state, are outcasted through the deterioration of social relationships thus enhancing their vulnerability. Through personal observations and experiences, many know of the many types of mental illnesses but lack the knowledge and interaction with each different type to know how to behave or treat those who are suffering thus creating social ‘tension’ (negative stigmas, isolation, bullying, etc.)
My social business idea can, therefore, be seen to evolve around the concept of shared knowledge between the two identified groups of society; the sufferers (mental disorders), and the non-sufferers (mentally ‘stable’). Knowledge can be argued to be the most sought after thing in the world, and therefore the most valuable thing you can give is knowledge. A business that provides a medium that achieves both should, in theory, be quite successful – albeit this is not always the case and very optimistic as many factors can affect the success of a business. However, there are a lot of gaps in our knowledge and understanding in regards to the way in which our brains work (or more simply put, we don’t know everything about the way in which our brain works), thus the great demand in professional research of causes and treatments of mental illnesses. This leaves the general public at a disadvantage when obtaining information regarding the disorders as it limits the accessibility/understanding to those who are; professionals of the field, those with enough education to read, research and understand scholarly articles, and those affected by relationships with known sufferers (diagnosis by a doctor). Furthermore, those who take part in research and publication of results may do so in a certain bias manner – they may not themselves be affected by certain illnesses, thus unintentionally misarticulate certain theories and conclusions. This highlights the problem with acquiring knowledge and understanding of mental illness in our society today, the information is only received via a middle man (who sometimes may misarticulate and distort information – scholar papers may also fail to emote). The way we empathise may therefore be manipulated.
The aim of the social business is therefore to create clarity between sufferers and non-sufferers by providing the opportunity to directly access and give ‘knowledge’ through the creative pieces made. This ability to directly inform through creative pieces can also benefit sufferers as it can boost self-worth, relieve internal stressors (there are studies that indicate mental health benefits of art and creation), whilst providing them with a voice. For the non-sufferers, these pieces can serve as a gateway to new knowledge and acknowledgement of those who are suffering, thus promoting awareness. The key element utilised in raising awareness is empathy. Empathy has no pre-requisite of academia, it’s a natural human ability, thus provides a larger audience.
During this week, I proceeded to look further into the psychological benefits of creation and creativity. I decided to do this because, through my personal experiences, I have been able to handle the stressors of my daily life through my personal creative outlets; guitar and composition, drawings, poems and creative story writing.
It seems as though there is a growing trend in research regarding this specific topic, and why creativity, art forms, in particular, provides positive impacts to mental health.
These impacts include, but not limited to:
- A natural outlet for emotions – relaxing and release from ‘suffocation’
- An alternate reality of complete control (beneficial for those who feel like they have no control in the world, including themselves) – boosting self-worth and esteem
- A means of focus, the idea of ‘flow’ – distraction away from the causes of mental disorder
- A place to explore their potential – this can increase their sense of strength and ability
I then looked into the different existing organisations that deal with mental health alongside writing or creative outlets and got in contact with them.
Melbourne Art Therapy Studio
“Art therapy works by contributing to changes in the client’s inner world, and towards the development of a client’s more integrated sense of self, with increased self-awareness and acceptance.” – Melbourne Art Therapy Studio
Melbourne Art Therapy Studio struck me as an organisation that truly prioritised the victims and their sense of self, and it inspired me to put great consideration towards the way in which I handle interactions with vulnerable individuals and to always remind myself the focus of my project; to provide a service that will help benefit the individuals who are facing a mental disorder. When I went to try and visit the studio, however, I was told that I was unable to ‘just look around’ or ask questions regarding their services. They mentioned that if I wanted to have a private conversation with an employee I would have to book an AUD$130 private consultation or ‘a more cost effective’ group introductory session at a price of AUD$80.
This already shows the gaps in this organisation:
- The steep prices limit the accessibility of the service to those who are financially more capable for therapy
- Although the service does focus on the individuals who suffer from a mental disorder, it is solely focus on those individuals and does not promote understanding for the general public.
eHeadspace is the online branch of Headspace, Australia. Headspace has a focus on youth mental health (ages 12 – 25). I conducted a phone interview with ‘Jane Doe’ (for privacy concerns the name of the interviewee will remain anonymous).
“We provide youth mental support services all around Australia. This can vary from; counselling support, sexual health, work and study, phone counselling, and youth programs – although youth programs are generally carried out by Headspace centres…”
“… Work and study mainly entail helping the individuals to re-engage with the community by helping them find work and education. So, this can be helping them write a CV, prepare them for interviews, or mentorship programmes from certain companies that put them through mock interviews. We also help them figure out what kind of study areas they would be interested in, as well as the pre-requisites for these courses or jobs…”
… I can’t really give you too much information on the youth programs, because I am not very familiar with them. These are usually carried out by the local Headspace centres… but from my understanding, each centre offers different types of services.”
After the interview I was able to identify some gaps in the organisation:
- Although it is great that individuals who suffer are able to reach out via the internet or phone, the main youth programs are only accessible via local Headspace centres (which are located only in some suburbs).
- There seems to be a gap of knowledge within the organisation of Headspace itself, as the interviewee was unable to give me specific details regarding what kind of services are providing by the youth programs.
- The services are only available to the youth, ages 12 – 25. Mental disorder can affect all ages, and stigma persists throughout.
Headspace, Elsternwick, Melbourne
After conducting the interview with eHeadspace and identifying some of the gaps, I decided to try and get a clearer picture of the organisation by visiting one of the local centres. The closest one to my home was Headspace, Elsternwick. After a 20 minute bike ride, I got to the centre only to find out that they were unable to take and requests for university students as the person who usually conducts these interviews was not in. They also added that they were quite busy at this point of time, and due to the limited resources that they have, were not able to help with my requests.
Although the visit was very brief, it still highlighted some gaps:
- The organisation may not have sufficient resources, or
- Due to the number of requests to interview employees, there may be a lack of external knowledge provided to the public regarding their services
- ‘the person who usually conducts interviews’, indicates that some of the employees may still lack enough knowledge of the organisation.
World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation has a department dedicated to global mental health. Their main goal is to improve the well-being of those with diagnosed mental disorders by; providing access to mental health services, and providing medication to victims. They have also made a video to help raise the awareness of mental health deterioration globally, particularly depression.
However, these are the gaps in their services:
Although there is a lot of work put into improving access and medical treatment, they have not tackled issues regarding the stigma. If anything they are worsening the stigma by explicitly highlighting the tendency for suicide.
The very first segments of their video involve; mentioning suicide and the economic loss due to mental disorder. It creates a notion of ‘false’ empathy, ‘we need to help these people because we are losing money globally’ is a message that may be derived from the video.
*I am not saying that this is their intent, but it could lead to misunderstanding*
Griffiths, S. (2005). The Mental Health Benefits of Arts and Creativity For Young American and Caribbean Men. The Mental Health Review, 10(2), 27 – 31.