Not Only Me 

Dooyung Kang


This work is a design project to increase awareness of mental health in South Korea. In South Korea, Koreans tend to treat mental health in a more casual manner compared with other countries. It is a result of cultural differences or simply an inherent characteristic of the people.

Koreans’ cynical attitude to mental health stems from their belief that being mentally unwell is evidence of a careless attitude towards one's self. To avoid this stigma, most Koreans with mental issues use an alternative language. They would rather hide their source of sadness with other sadness, to avoid being discovered. This response only makes the sadness fester. 

So, how can the mentally ill be drawn out? After several experiments with the subjects, drawing out memory was an effective method to get them to open up. For instance, if I asked my friend to describe his mum, he would rely on things that he previously said about her. It’s like a script that he has performed before. But, if I asked him to draw her, he would pause, and think about her all over again because he has never done this before. It’s a whole new engagement which is not corrupted by his conscious self, thus making it very unique. Drawing one’s memory is a very pure pathway to reaching one's memory.

Using this result of the experiment, I realise that the unique method can generate specific sereneness to people who are mentally unwell or mentally healthy. In particular, they could deeply empathise with others’ emotions and stories with this sense of peace. From relating to other people’s stories and their own without corruption, I find the possibility of mental health awareness to increase. The dramatic change of perspective of mental health wouldn’t be witnessed, but the very small change in people wherein they realise that they are not alone in their feelings and they allow their feelings to "breathe" surely increases awareness. 

So, I met as many people as I could and introduced the pure pathway to memory to them while also connecting them using their drawings and stories. To collect more drawings, I printed 50 booklets to share with everyone. The participants handed over the booklets to others, like passing a baton in a relay race. I painted pictures with several interviewees about the images that come to their minds when recalling specific emotions or memories. This large collection and gathering of memories and emotions was an ongoing fulfilling process. 

There is also a website created to reach more people. Here, lots of memories and emotions of many individuals are archived so that visitors can see the emotional value of others. 

This is how and why the "Not Only Me" project was created.