Prepare to be underwhelmed.

Final Project Proposal

In which I try to explain a project idea that is hopefully realistic.

During a class discussion last year, we were examining YA novels and the topic turned to mental health. A couple of students posited that anxiety and depression are so prevalent now because we spend too much time on our phones, and aren’t busy enough with work. (I am paraphrasing.) This view really shook me. This misguided idea that something like depression is a “new” issue made me wonder if I could use Storymaps to chart instances of depression throughout history, and with it, what peoples’ experiences with it might have looked like throughout time.

I am not sure how far I could go with this project, simply because depression remains (although the atmosphere has improved drastically over the last few years) a taboo subject and because not everyone had the privilege of having their lives recorded, it might be difficult to pinpoint exact instances. It will also be difficult to define “depression” absolutely — during the Renaissance period, for example, depression was generally understood as the result of an imbalance of humours and referred to as “melancholia.” However, the symptoms are very familiar.

My idea would not focus on medical records so much as on written accounts and art forms, primarily because that is my niche. However, I do want to look into the ways people tried to treat depression, and how they viewed it (with disdain? as an illness? with empathy?), so each entry would include a description of society’s views of mental health at the time. My Proof of Concept would therefore feature a map highlighting areas across the world where I could find evidence of someone experiencing depression, and a separate video linking these accounts together. The artwork or written accounts would be centre stage to each entry.  

My purpose would be educational, would highlight the importance of art in relation to human suffering, and would ideally emphasize the foolishness of assuming something is only a problem because of [insert incorrect “people aren’t as tough as they used to be” reason here]. I find it interesting so many groups use the “If ____ existed this whole time, why are we only hearing about it now?” question, when it has been proven that people who are “different” have been ostracized and worse for speaking up throughout history. It is too easy to erase people who exist outside of what society has deemed “normal.”

  1. “Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, 1628, third edition.” Wikipedia. Public Domain.,_1626,_2nd_edition.jpg. ↩︎


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