“For the Record”

Communicating mental illness through embodied experience and inclusive design

Doris C RuschAnuradha Rana
DePaul University

“For the Record” is an interactive documentary on four young adults who live with mental health issues such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Bi-polar Disorder, Eating Disorder (Anorexia Nervosa) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It addresses insufficient understanding of mental illness as one of its main issues. “Understanding” in this sense relates to comprehending the fullness of experience, not merely the cognitive understanding of symptoms or physio-psychological mechanisms. Lack of experiential understanding may contribute to stigma and often burdens relationships between people with mental health issues and their social environment.

“For the Record” hopes to provide a space for “shared experiences” in order to increase understanding and alleviate stigma. The project is being developed at the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University by documentary filmmaker Anuradha Rana and Game Designer Doris C. Rusch and their student teams. It includes interviews, short films, photo-essays, and experiential games, embedded in a website. The various media components create a coherent whole, provide context to each other and illuminate complementary aspects of what it is like to live with mental health issues. “For the Record” leverages the potential of an interactive format and playful engagement to create phenomenological authentic possibility spaces that shift the mode of reception from mere “witnessing” to “embodied experience.”

To ensure experiential accuracy, our four subjects have been strongly involved in the creative and production process, took leading roles on the game development teams, and participated in the films. We are interested in discussing our collaboration with our subjects, how we negotiated ownership of the project, the creative process and guarded their privacy. We would love to engage in a dialogue about inclusive, participatory design, and the tapping into the experiential potential of interactive media and play to enable understanding through first hand, embodied experience.

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