There are fears that we are medicalising unhappiness. This is particularly relevant for young people who can sometimes find it difficult to talk about their negative feelings. In this pilot project, funded by Arts Council Wales, I collaborated with youth mental health expert Prof Ann John of Swansea Medical School, where I am an Honorary Fellow.
We worked with 18-24 years olds with experience of mental health anxieties. The participants were also gamers, which enabled them to draw on their knowledge of virtual realities and avatars to assist them in creating unique virtual versions of themselves and their environments. Using the Virtual Reality VIVE headset with the ‘Google Tilt Brush’ and Kodon 3D sculpting soft wear, participants were invited to create in real time a 3D immersive version of their state of mind. The project also explored if ‘affective objects’ (objects that transfer emotional data from object to subject) were able to ‘connect’ the participant back to their session, and for this we used 3D printing from the VR sculpting sessions.
Research questions for the project were: can fully immersive virtual 3D painting and sculpting tools help participants recognise, express, and visually represent their own unique interpretation of their feelings; is this a positive and cathartic experience; is a more holistic mind-body approach –an embodied methodology – more effective in a 3D environment?
We are currently in the process of securing further funding to scale the project up to a larger study.