Rebecca Erde

Posted on

MA ID ’19

What is the equivalent of a cane for a psychological symptom? How does one create a crutch for persistent sadness? How can these objects feel stigma-free and desirable? These questions stem from a massive problem that is not adequately being addressed by society and the design community: mental illness and more importantly, mental health. Mental illness affects one in five people in the United States. There are very few products designed to help this ubiquitous population improve their mental health. And because mental illness is often not visible, the needs of those living with it are seriously underserved.

I came to RISD to create a conversation, to highlight and normalize discussions about the stigmatized topic of mental illness. My motivation to focus on this blind spot within design derives from my personal history with mental illness and my chosen study of design. I use design as a vehicle to de-stigmatize mental illness, to create education and to better communication. I have created a methodology for designing with people living with mental illness.

Through my personal experience with mental illness, my commitment to psychotherapy, ongoing conversations with specialists, my education in human centered design, and community-focused user research, I am in a unique position to design with a population that is regularly ignored and underserved. This is why I am designing commercial products to help myself and others cope with the day to day symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses, as well as to better navigate interpersonal connections with friends and family, because anyone can experience mental illness, at any time.