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Thesis Statement I am studying the history of mental institutions and their treatments in order to understand why society has negative stigmas about mental health and receiving/admitting the need for help. I want to create a participatory design that creates compassion in the viewer eliminating stigma and removing the alienation that comes from the division of sane and insane.

Alexis Ely Parsons Fall 2012 Thesis: Issuu/Progress


Why this Issue needs design attention? More American adults suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (7 million), cancer (6 million) and AIDS (200,000) combined. Every day, approximately 95 Americans take their own life, and 2,370 more attempt to do so. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 25-34 year old and the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24 year olds Fewer than half of all Americans consider depression to be a health problem and more than two in five believe it is a sign of personal weakness. Almost two million Americans currently suffer from bipolar disorder (manic- depressive illness), in which episodes of depression alternate or coexist with periods of mania. This mood disorder carries a high risk of suicide. The World Health Organization predicts that depression will become the second-leading cause of death by 2020, unless immediate steps are taken to improve treatment and increase awareness, especially in developing nations. The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States. Stigma about mental disorders and discrimination against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care. Human rights violations of psychiatric patients are routinely reported in most countries. These include physical restraint, seclusion and denial of basic needs and privacy. Few countries have a legal framework that adequately protects the rights of people with mental disorders. In order to increase the availability of mental health services, there are five key barriers that need to be overcome: the absence of mental health from the public health agenda and the implications for funding; the current organization of mental health services; lack of integration within primary care; inadequate human resources for mental health; and lack of public mental health leadership.

http://www.afsp.org/files/College_Film//factsheets.pdf http://mentalhealthnews.org/suicide-could-be-2-cause-of-death-by-2020/84450/ http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/mental_health_facts/en/index8.html


Research I started off researching individual disorders and how they manifested. I then moved into how film portrays mental illness. However, after researching the facts of mental health I realized that combining all the parts of films I had seen might feed more into the stereotype than help solve it. So I dove more into the stigmas of overall mental illness and institutions and their history. Nellie Bly was my biggest inspiration. I read her book 10 Days in a Madhouse and it really helped me further my investigation. One study was about the best ways to fade stigma about mental Illness. Their research pointed to sympathy. So I looked up the dictionary definition: It stated that sympathy is when two people or peoples organs/emotions feel what the other is feeling. This plunged me into the heart of my thesis. Here are some really important points from my research. Early man widely believed that mental illness was the result of supernatural phenomena such as spiritual or demonic possession, sorcery, the evil eye, or an angry deity and so responded with equally mystical, and sometimes brutal, treatments. Trephinin--- During this procedure, a hole, or trephine, was chipped into the skull using crude stone instruments. In all of these ancient civilizations, mental illness was attributed to some supernatural force, music was used a therapy to affect emotion Through the Middles Ages, mental illness was believed to result from an imbalance of these humors. In order to bring the body back into equilibrium, patients were given emetics, laxatives, and were bled using leeches or cupping Due to the shame and stigma attached to mental illness, many hid their mentally ill family members in cellars, caged them in pigpens, or put them under the control of servants (Porter 92). Others were abandoned by their families and left to a life of begging and vagrancy. Violent patients were put on display like sideshow freaks for the public to peek at for the price of one penny; gentler patients were put out on the streets to beg for charity Forms of Treatment chains straightjackets roping patients together purging bleeding cold baths beating solitary confinement work movement travel cold rotary chair lobotomy shock therapy rubber room - padded cell Electric Shock Therapy Insulin shock therapy ( coma therapy) removing parts of the body eugenics


Research. Continued -In the beginning mental illness was considered to be moral defect. It was when a demonic force entered your body, to solve this they continuously “baptized” you (bathed). Forms of lobotomy existed with cavemen, their are skulls with markings of where they stabbed your head with a rock - As time went on “lunatics” began to be more and more feared. If you were found insane you were usually chained up in a basement or chained up and put on display. Bethalm in the UK put their most dangerous patients out on display for the world to see. -Venereal Diseases (STD) were considered mental illness. Not only syphilis, if you were found having any STD or anal sex you were considered to be insane. they locked you up after performing a series of physical and mental purging. -Society created the insane by putting alienation between those who didn’t follow social norms and those who didn’t. Mentally ill were usually put into prisons before they were mental institutions. -Mental institutions became dumping grounds for unwanted citizens. Poor, mentally challenged, sick etc. This idea of unwanted would be a stereotype that stays for a long time. -In the 1840’s mental institutions were still horrible “both men and women and all ages, are incarcerated with criminals and left unclothed and in darkness and without heat or bathrooms. Many are chained and beaten.” However, their was a community of people trying to start a change in mental health and the treatment of mentally ill. (Invented the talking cure 1900s) -1930- “Drugs, electro-convulsive therapy, and surgery are used to treat people with schizophrenia and others with persistent mental illnesses. Some are infected with malaria; others are treated with repeated insulin-induced comas. Others have parts of their brain removed surgically, an operation called a lobotomy, which is performed widely over the next two decades to treat schizophrenia, intractable depression, severe anxiety, and obsessions. “ -1946- National Mental Health Act. Harry Truman calls for humane research of the mind and mentally ill. Which in turn creates the NIMH -1949- Lithium is being used to start treating mentally ill -1950s- Anti-Psychoitic drugs are introduced. Mental Institutions hit their highest peak. ( Connection, mental health and morality. Who could keep up with the leave it to beaver social norms of the 1950’s... obviously not a lot. -1960-Goffman writes “Asylums” stating most people are insane in asylums because you put them in an asylum. Many people are removed from mental institutions lowering the peak -1962- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (“Kesey is motivated by the premise that the patients he sees don’t really have mental illnesses; they simply behave in ways a rigid society is unwilling to accept.”) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/nash/timeline/timeline2.html -1963- “In the U.S., passage of the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act provides the first federal money for developing a network of community-based mental health services. Advocates for de institutionalization believe that people with mental illness will voluntarily seek out treatment at these facilities if they need it, although in practice this will not always be the case. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/ amex/nash/timeline/timeline2.html 1980- Willowbrook, The turn in Institutional Reformation 1990- New Generation of anti-psychotic drugs are introduced 2000- Today. If you check yourself into a mental health facility you are free to leave when you please. If someone else checks you in you leave when the facility chooses. It costs roughly 8000 a week.


Because my research stated that sympathy was the best way to fade mental health stigma that is the direction I want to pursue. I want to try and figure out a way to create art pieces that not only create compassion but an overall idea of understanding and shared experience.

There are few points I want to really hone in on for my thesis Mass- the amount unmarked graves and cremation cans an insane asylums is so depressing, I want to somehow pay tribute to those who were marked as “unwanted” or “unclaimed” Empathy- I think a lot of stigma in mental illness comes from the lack of understanding I want to create similar emotions between “patient” and viewer. Understanding/ Exposure- A lot of institutions and mental illnesses are scary because they are elusive. We fear what we do not understand I want to expose certain aspects of asylums and mental illness so that they are no longer misunderstood. Morality/Social Norms- In every book it stated that mental illness correlated with this idea of morality. ( obviously back in the day ) However, William Barett believed that mental illness affects those who just see life differently and whose social norms are different than the masses. Expereince-I think in order to really understand someone, you need http://ipr.interlochen.org/files/imagecache/ pageimage/image/image/Women’s%20Wing-Ward_5resized.jpg to hear the experiences behind the character. I want that idea in my final project.


Inspriations and such


Texts and Projects 1. The straightjacket sewed two fabrics together and made own pattern. I realized that straightjackets create a stigma of mass. They don’t have patterns or sizes for them. I made the sleeves completely one loop because once you are in one you can’t get out figuratively ad literally 2. I made a small scale model of the grounds of an institution using plastic boxes. This made me realize the reason the reason a lot of these institutions got away with malpractice because the grounds were so vast and beautiful from the outside... And terrible from the inside. 3. In Nellie By’s book she stated that at one time 54 women were tied together with one rope. Considering these women were extremely thin and ill ( as Nellie describes because of horrible meal plans in the institutions. 20 inches per women waist times 54 gives you roughly 150 feet. I tied that around a block of plexiglass glass to show how once you were in this institution you became a mass. 4. I created a syllabus for an art therapy program for people in institutions that is more advanced than just painting. Because It is obvious they can handle more than just painting. 5. I researched all different sound libraries typing in the words mental, crazy, etc. The sounds by no surprise were scary and had manic laughter. When I researched cancer or STD however the music was uplifting/ soothing and funny. Proving that stigma is not only verbal and visual it can be auditory as well.


PROCESS BOOK / BLOG / Pecha Kucha


Thesis Concept