Jessica Walsh’s  minimal, two frame gif is simple and very effective in delivering the widely unacknowledged fact that 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness during their lifetime and therefore shouldn’t have this stigma attached to it.
12 Kinds of Kindness
‘12 Kinds of Kindness’ was a project undertaken by two self-described “self-centered New Yorkers, [who are] often focused on what’s ahead instead of what’s around them…” (Goodman, T., Walsh, J., 2015). Based on 12-step programs designed to change behaviours, Goodman & Walsh created a 12-step experiment as a way to confront their own apathy and selfishness. For 12 months they challenged themselves to open their hearts and minds to become “kinder, more empathetic people” (Goodman, T., Walsh, J., 2015).
04 – Don’t beat yourself up
The fourth step of their experiment focused on past regrets and the idea of forgiveness. For Walsh in particular, this process was incredibly significant and she used this time and space to open up about her own personal experiences and struggles with anorexia and depression. She found documenting her story to be “incredibly empowering and freeing” (Walsh, J., 2015) and enabled her to become aware of just how prevalent struggles with mental health is throughout society. During this time Walsh was inspired by the amount of people (peers and colleagues) that came forward to share their own experiences. It was at this point she set up the website ‘Let’s Talk About Mental Health’. This site would act as a platform were the stories of friends and strangers could be collected and presented to the world without any hidden agenda.
“There would be periods when everyone thought I had recovered, but I just got better at hiding it” (Walsh, J., 2015).
Let’s Talk About Mental Health
Homepage of ‘Let’s Talk About Mental Health’ that launches straight into the personal stories of users.
‘Let’s Talk About Mental Health’ clearly emphasis the intended purpose of this website of sharing personal experiences to gain understanding. The users are encouraged to upload their own words through a ‘Share Your Story’ link, which is placed directly below the sites heading, followed by the collection of volunteered stories. Beyond simply reading the words of others, users may leave comments on individual posts, being prompted by the default message ‘Start the discussion’. The language has been carefully considered and helps to further the idea of this being an open space that gives a voice and a sense of community to those who feel isolated.
A key feature to this project is the deliberate choice not to include a disclaimer as the user ‘enters’ the site. The homepage instantly launches into a collection of testimonies, that ultimately forces the user to engage with the content in order to derive its overall theme and purpose. The ‘Learn More’ link interestingly choices not to direct the user to another page of the site, but over to ‘12 Kinds of Kindness’ site, specifically the page where Walsh documents her mental health story as part of Step 4 of the project. She concludes by reflecting on what she learnt from sharing her story and how learning of other’s struggles inspired her to create this digital platform.
‘Let’s Talk About Mental Health’, final outcome is a website and Instagram account, both are generative system platforms that allow content to continually expand via the creator or user. The technologies used in this project relies heavily on social media outlets (predominately Instagram) and the website to continually, indefinitely evolve this project, I found myself considering the multitude of different ways others may be made aware of this project. Personally, I came across this project via YouTube, when I searched for ‘talking about mental health.’ However, you could access it through search engines, articles, or hashtags. The hashtags #letstalkaboutmentalhealth or #myunfilteredlife are both used frequently on posts relating to the project and thus could engage individuals in the discussion.
The way in which users are able to share their experiences and stories is equally diverse. Stories can be uploaded via the comment section for ‘Let’s Talk About Mental Health’ or ‘12 Kinds of Kindness’, drawings, emails, notes, letters, direct conversation with creator Walsh, or the use of a hashtag when uploading content to various social media platforms. Each format is an important contribution to the greater conversation and equally valid.
The simplicity of the project is what makes it so successful and a global platform that gives everyone an opportunity to discuss their stories and experiences with mental health. It’s important for people to have a space where they feel comfortable and are able to share their stories without the fear of being shamed and ‘trolled’. Hopefully through open discussion the realities of mental health, the wider population will become more empathetic and understanding.
Goodman, T., Walsh, J. (2015). Twelve Kinds of Kindness. Retrieved from http://12kindsofkindness.com
Walsh, J. (2015) Don’t Beat Yourself Up, Twelve Kinds of Kindness. Retrieved from http://12kindsofkindness.com/the-steps/dont-beat-yourself-up/jessie/
Walsh, J. (2016). Let’s Talk About Mental Health. Retrieved from http://letstalk.12kindsofkindness.com