Upon Reflection

I recall my time at last years Fís exhibition, the pride, the joy, the relief. It almost seemed impossible to make something as wonderful as that again. However, as we walked out of the Carrolls building, with the Realign booth set up behind us, I realised that the impossible is not always so.

Taking the theme Hyper, we turned our attention towards words. The words we use in society may seem weightless and meaningless, but in fact, they do have an unseen impact on people. Hyper Labelling or the excessive labelling that occurs in our society can be damaging to someone’s reputation, their image, their lives. So we looked at what we once called ‘vulnerable groups’. These groups were those living with mental illness or conditions that may have been stigmatised. Narrowing it down, we focused on those living with schizophrenia.

I’ll admit, I assumed schizophrenia was split personality. In fact, some of the creative artefacts that first came to mind were related to split personality. When learning this is one of the most common misconceptions, my interest was peaked. If I myself had a preconceived notion of what schizophrenia was and I was wrong, I wondered who else may be the same as me.  And so our research began.

Our research found that schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood, misrepresented and most stigmatised condition. The source of this? The media in which we consume. Learning that media was largely responsible for the labels and stigma attached to schizophrenia lit another fire under the group. As media students, we felt obligated to combat this issue with positive, informative media. We began brainstorming ideas of what we could create. A photography series to show the real lives of these people. Illustrations to show their interests. Infographics to detail the information in a creative way. A short video with the real stories of those living with schizophrenia. All compiled into an easy to use website.

We reached out to Shine, a mental health organisation that was previously named Schizophrenia Ireland. However, they changed their name due to this stigma. Speaking with Derek Pepper, the Louth regional officer gave the project the authenticity it needed. He helped us to speak with two support groups, one in Dundalk and one in Drogheda, which were held for those living with schizophrenia.

The experience of going to the support groups and meeting those affected was perhaps the greatest aspect of this research. To hear their stories, their experiences gave live to our work. We knew that these people felt judged and yet ignored. They addressed the fact that the media has a lot of responsibility as it portrays people with schizophrenia as monsters. When in fact, with treatment and care, these people are just like anyone else. Using the information they gave us, we created what I feel are beautiful artefacts worthy of their approval.

As the project manager, I had a number of daily tasks. Organising meetings, preparing for presentations, preparing documents, liaising with organisation and people outside of the college, managing any issues within the group. In essence kept an eye on every aspect of the project to ensure it was to the standard we set ourselves at the beginning of the year.

Thomas as an illustrator created some of the most unexpected and most intriguing designs. His passion for work and perfection is what brought the project to a high standard.

Nadia’s problem-solving ability when it came to web development dumbfounded me at every turn. She and I collaborated on documents to ensure they were academic standard. Her attention to detail and unwavering work ethic was imperative to the project.

Julia worked non-stop throughout the year. Her ability to use new software that she may have been unfamiliar with and make it look effortless is unmatched. From animation to photography, to video editing. She brought the project to life.

If you were to take away one person from this group, the project would be altered significantly. Realign is a truly collaborative project where research and creativity merged to make a change.

Final Reflection

We have just finished setting up our Fis display, and I am very proud of what we have accomplished. I believe our project is a result of four very dedicated people each bringing their all to a cause we became deeply invested in as we progressed.

In four years of study, this is the first time I’ve been in a group that worked this well together. During orientation I saw that collaboration boosts the ability of each individual member of a team, and understood the value of learning to work in groups. Realistically, though, one of the lessons in experiencing teamwork is that it can be difficult. Inevitably, group work means learning also what to do if a member does not do their share, or on the opposite end of the scale if a member has difficulty letting go and tries to do everything themselves. I am delighted that in this, my last undergraduate group project, I was in a team that had none of those problems. We were each confident in our specialism, knowledgeable about our teammates’ specialisms, comfortable in our individual roles, and competent to contribute where needed to any other part of the project. Our task division was therefore effective and made use of each member’s strongest talents to accomplish the highest possible standard in our final product.

In spite of strong personalities and a very high standard in each of us individually, we also accomplished management of our interpersonal interaction, so that even when stress was high and tempers tested, we never stopped being friends. We each understood every other team member’s drive for excellence, and were all on board with a push for the closest we could get to perfection. Such strength of vision could so easily cause conflict, but coupled with trust in each team member’s ability and work ethic, it led instead to a rare situation in which an entire team worked together towards a common goal.

On a personal note, the subject matter of this project was of course close to my heart. My sister, who experienced her first psychotic episode when she was eighteen, died from suicide just short of her twenty-fifth birthday. In the course of the project, I learned of a lot of changes in attitude, views, and approaches to schizophrenia. I often wondered if she would have survived, had she been surrounded by the acceptance, understanding and encouragement I see being promoted by Shine, for instance, for people living with schizophrenia today. Over and above meeting the requirements for our degree award, I hope the people who visit our exhibition and our website will have changed minds.

A changed mind can inspire a helping hand, a listening ear, an understanding smile, a continued friendship. Maybe if Ananda had had just one changed mind she would have lived. Maybe there’s another Ananda out there who may live because of a changed mind today.

Realign Logo

Reflective Blog (Thomas)

thomas

As the groups illustrator I threw my talent into the artwork for our project. Starting with the planning phase, which I also collaborated with Julia, Nadia and Kevin to determine the look, feel, and colour scheme of our project. I also worked tirelessly to tweak our logo until we had it perfect, and then moved on to the artwork for the infographic and illustration poster series.I also created all the graphics on the website, academic poster, and media wall. I created every graphic image, producing digital art files suitable for every part of the project and also suitable for printing for our physical installation, be advised that all the graphics were created in the Adobe Software Illustrator. Finally, I also helped paint and draw our logo on the exhibition board.

Overall my job as the group’s illustrator was best suited to me because I enjoy nothing more than creating artwork with meaning and speaking out on something that I care about and share the group’s vision. I as the illustrator I kept up to par with my entire group’s idea’s and meeting’s and in return I assisted in promoting the product. I believed that I provided the best service as possible for the Realign. I felt the project as turned out as a major success, and the Realign group is very proud of the change we have helped make in an area that requires a great amount of assistance.

All in all i’m incredibly proud of each member of our group, we kept with our vision for the entire process from the beginning to the end. What we have created is nothing short of amazing.

Derek Pepper

The final email to Derek Pepper was to invite him to Fís. He has been a part of the project since the beginning and felt only right that he should be involved with the end. Derek and Shine gave our project weight. Without his help, we wouldn’t have had access to the support groups. His help has been imperative to the project.

Research Poster

The research poster was perhaps one of the most important components of the project.

We did some research of the posters made by past students. We noted the positive posters were colourful and caught the eye. Some of the weaker ones were text heavy. We tried to find a happy balance in our design.

Using the illustrations created by Thomas, and Julia and I worked on the layout. Nadia and I worked on the text together to ensure that it was informative and interesting. Together, the poster contained all of our ideas to create the end result.

I took on the responsibility of outlining the text alongside the graphics. The ribbons were used as titles for each section. This created a uniform design from the infographics straight through to the research poster. Some of Thomas’s graphics were adapted and tailored to suit the information. I asked Thomas to create some new graphics for certain parts, while I made modifications to accurately communicated the information.

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First Draft Research Poster

After we presented our first poster, we took the feedback given to us by the lecturers and made improvements. Some of the text and images were too small where they could have been bigger. We also wanted to add some kind of text box to the quotes as their place on the poster at present gives the equal importance as other text that isn’t in boxes. After these changes were implemented, we printed our final poster.

I enjoyed laying out the research poster. It was important to lay it out in such as way as it communicates the entire journey of our research in the past year.

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Final Research Poster

Final Reflection

When I think all the way back to September and the ideas that everyone had in mind, I did not imagine myself working on such a sensitive topic.

Comparing this year’s project to Fis 16, I’ve thought a lot more about the message that we wanted to put across and the impact that we wanted our project to have. The focus this year was so centred around factual research and creating something that would be noticed by society. Realign for me was not only about working on my laptop for 7 months straight, but about interacting with people, and pushing to reach as many people as possible with the content we created. When I left the first support group meeting, all I wanted to do was give these people a voice and show people in society that Schizophrenia does not define a person.

The members of these support groups continuously thanked us for dedicating our project to the topic of Schizophrenia, and that for me was the motivation behind creating strong content for this project. Each member of this group has put in more work than these blog posts can show. During the user testing in the Marshes, people admitted to us that they had no idea what Schizophrenia was or just assumed that it was related to dangerous behaviour. Our presence in the Marshes alone was able to change perceptions around Schizophrenia and that is what the aim of our project was all about.

I thoroughly believe that Realign will be something that lasts far beyond Fis and will be a step in the right direction for the conversation around mental health in Ireland.