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Good In Every Situation

Last week in class, we ran through a mock-up of what our final exam is going to be, which is designing a disaster text in about an hour and half in response to a crisis situation. For the mock-up, we discussed the Nepal earthquake, and worked on creating the best disaster text possible for the situation. Near the end of class, we talked about if there are any universal principles for disaster communication, and discovered that indeed, there are.

1. Knowing your audience

If you don’t know who you’re talking to or how to reach the people you are trying to communicate with, then it is highly unlikely that you will create an effective disaster communicate method. What types of living conditions do these people have? What resources do they have access to? What is their culture like, and does that effect the way I might try to communicate with them? These are all important questions to ask and understand about your audience.

2. Giving options

Rather than telling people what to do and when to do it, it is important to give people viable options to choose from, as not everyone is in the same situation. It is important to recognize that every individual has different needs.

3. Researching the disaster

If you don’t know what’s going on and how people are previously coping, then you probably won’t get very far. This goes into knowing the area and the audience.

These are all valid principles that must be implemented in order to have an effective disaster communication. Obviously, each communication method will depend on the disaster, since each one is unique, but as far as basic principles go, the ones listed above are the way to go.

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The CDC Textbook for Disaster Response

Last week in class we went over the CDC’s disaster communication textbook to look for information to help finish our prototypes. There were a couple of of things that I could use from the text that would help me with my prototype. There were descriptions that focused on the emotional well-being of crisis workers, and recognizing signs of stress and over-work. They had personal coping strategies as well as strategies for supervisors to help with their employees. There was also a helpful list of organizations for support and their descriptions.

I think I might try to incorporate some of the coping strategies listed into my design because it is about helping people to recognize in themselves if something may be off. I might want to include a couple of organizations at the bottom of my chart to give people more options about where they could go for help.

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The Moon Disaster

Last week in class, we went over a disaster text that would’ve been Nixon’s speech to the nation in case something happened to the astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin on their mission to the moon. Since this text was written in 1969, it was our job to create a newer, more improved disaster response strategy for the 21st century.

Our group didn’t have time to re-write the actual text of the speech, but we came up with general plan of how we wanted the information to be distributed and circulated.

Here’s what we got

1. First would be the speech the president will give to the nation informing the public of the disaster.

2. The speech would be videotaped and televised live

3. Interviews would be collected of people attending the speech and possibly the families and friends of the victims

4. The speech and interviews would then be distributed on the web for people to view all over the world, including news sites and social media.

That’s all for now! Have a great Earth day!

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Change on the Horizon

So as a bit of a catch up, recently in class we have been working on creating our disaster texts. Last week we brought in a rough mock up of our ideas. I decided for my disaster text for mental illness that I would do an infographic to help people decide whether or not to see a therapist. I imagined that this text would hang up in doctors offices so people would be able to read it while waiting.

Here was my first draft:

Disaster Text

I didn’t finish it all the way, and I noticed that as I was moving through, I felt that it wasn’t providing enough information as I would like for the audience.

What to do?

With feedback from my peers and my professor, I decided to change the infographic to more of a flowchart/quiz rather than just have a bunch of information and statistics. This I felt would make the text more engaging and interactive for the reader, as well as help them make an informed decision about whether or not to see a therapist, which is the ultimate goal of the text.

So with a little elbow grease…

I took the feedback I received and re-worked everything to create my first real prototype, which you can see below:Therapist Flowchart

A big thanks goes out to Piktochart for this one. Seriously, if you ever need to make an infographic, this is the site to use.

But wait there’s more!

…Just not yet. This is my first prototype, and I do plan on refining some things based on more feedback, but until then, enjoy this one!

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Navajo Issues

In the book we are reading in class, a situation happened with water contamination between the Navajo and the US government that was not effective. In order to effectively communicate to the Navajo that the water was now contaminated, I would most likely try to put up a fence around the river with signs showing pictures of people getting sick in a way they could understand from drinking the water. In addition to that, I would also probably dye the river a certain color in order to keep them away from it.

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Choices, Choices, Choices

So in my last post, I discussed my user persona, Ian, who is effected by the disaster of mental illness. With this persona, I had to present a choice for Ian to make which was “Should I go see a therapist?” and I had to discuss all constraints affecting Ian’s choice. I broke these constraints down into levels which are Right Now, My Future Goals, and Communities/groups.

What are Ian’s constraints right now?

One constraint is that right now Ian is suffering from depression, which is why he is considering going to a therapist in the first place. However, he is also a bit in denial about how bad things really are for him, and he doesn’t have very much money. He is also afraid because he has never been to a therapist before, so he doesn’t know what to expect. He doesn’t know how to bring the subject up with his family or friends, so he just doesn’t talk about it.

What does Ian want in the future?

One of Ian’s goal for the future is to be happy and healthy, so not going to see a therapist could potentially keep him from meeting that goal. Ian does want to graduate from college, but at the rate he’s going now, he doesn’t think he’ll be able to make it because of his mental health. He wants to be able to find a good job, but doesn’t want to be discriminated against because of his mental illness.

What about the Institutions and Communities?

Another constraint Ian has is that his college only allows a certain number of free therapist visits per year, and his insurance company will not pay for any counseling services. He doesn’t feel that his friends will understand him, so he doesn’t want them to know. The cultural stigma in society makes it hard for him to speak up, however, he has to maintain full-time status as a student and have a 2.5 GPA in order to graduate, so he’s going to need some support in order to do that.

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Writing With Personas

In order to help develop my paper for writing about the disaster of mental illness and how writing plays a role in it, last week our class came up with a “persona” to help determine what was useful and what we still needed to include in regards to our research thus far. So, without further ado,

Meet Ian

About Me*

Name: Ian

Likes: Sports, movies, fish and other aquatic life, boats, science, cooking

Dislikes: Country music, roller coasters, winter, talking to strangers, Vietnamese food

Goals: I want to move to a warm climate where I can study marine biology. Also to graduate from college. I’d like to own and live off a boat someday. When I get really old I might look into owning my own restaurant.


What Ian Knows About The Disaster

What do you think caused the disaster?

I’m depressed, and I think it’s because of the Nature vs. Society theory. I believe I have a genetic pre-disposition for depression since my dad suffered from a mental illness, but I also didn’t have the greatest childhood. I was bullied a lot in school, and I lost my dad at an early age, so I didn’t really get to know him.

What are your sources of information about the disaster?

Most of the information I get on the subject is mostly from organizations like The National Alliance on Mental Health or blogs with people’s personal stories like

How do you get this information?

I get it from my doctor, the internet forums and blogs, T.V. etc


Ian’s Information Needs

What critical information do you need that you’re not getting?

I need information about the types of care I have access to but don’t know about like group therapy sessions, counseling, and other means of treatment.

What misinformation are you getting?

Ads that portray that medication is the only solution to mental illnesses like depression, and that mental illness is a choice.

What information do you need that you’re not easily getting access to?

I need information about better/different means of treatment and how I can afford it.

What else don’t you realize about the disaster?

I don’t realize that many people are suffering from the same illness that I am.


Ok, it’s me again

Based on Ian’s needs, I had to design an information resource that would be useful and helpful for him. I decided that a mobile phone app that he could look at to provide him with motivational texts would be beneficial, and I thought it would be great if it could also notify him when new laws or policies are passed that have a positive impact in regards to mental illness.

Did it help?

I have to say that creating Ian was defiantly an interesting experience, and one that I’ve never done before. I might try to incorporate Ian’s situation into my paper in order to achieve a different, and more focused perspective to effectively get my point across.

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Mindsets and the Roles of Writing

We discussed some questions pertaining to my disaster last week, and I’m going to detail two of them in this post.

What is a mindset?

According to Robert Johnson, author of Romancing The Atom: Nuclear Infatuation From the Radium Girls To Fukushima, a mindset is “an unreflective set of beliefs that we construct about something we might hold dear, something we might fear, something we cannot live with or without.” Now this definition is important to understanding my disaster of mental illness because each group in the four theories of disaster has a different mindset on the subject. I talked a lot about this in my previous post, but here is a refresher if you need one.

Act of God/Fate

People in this group might say that mental illness is a choice, or that people suffering from it are being punished for lack of faith or sinning.


Act of Nature

Others in the Act of Nature group might say that genetics, brain chemistry, and infections are at fault, and that it is simply the way you were born.


Nature vs. Society

People in the Nature vs. Society group may offer genetics as well as a whole host of other environmental factors like psychological trauma, dysfunctional family life, or death of a loved one that contribute to mental illness.


Social Construction

People who argue for Social Constructions though might say that some mental illnesses are entirely based on society such as eating disorders. For example, if society didn’t perpetuate the idea that women need to be very thin in order to be beautiful, then perhaps there would be fewer people who suffered from the disease.


Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinions or theories, but these attitudes can become mindsets very quickly if the people involved are not willing to discuss other theories of causation. Hence, they become “set” about their views on the subject, which can hurt those who suffer from mental illness.

Now, What Does Writing Do?

Writing in the case of mental illness can be helpful, but it can also be a hindrance. Websites such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness can be incredibly useful for those who are suffering from a mental illness, and those who want to help and understand mental illnesses. There are countless other forums and support places on the internet, as well as movies and where to find help if you need it. However, with helpful writing comes unhelpful writing as well. One example of harmful writing toward mental illness is the idea of “Thinspiration” where people write blogs about pro-eating disorder lifestyles. The media can also play a big role in the stigmatization of mental illness. Seriously, one Google search on this stuff and you’ll be in a whirlwind of all sorts of ill-conceived ideas.


It’s true that people can get stuck in their beliefs about something, and research shows that there’s something to back up everyone on the internet. I think the most important thing to take away from this post is to keep an open mind in regards to your beliefs in order to understand where others may be coming from.

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What Really Caused the Disaster

Last week in class, we talked about causation for disaster, in terms of mindsets, conflicts, and other theories.

One of the theories we discussed was Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” which talks about the fact that people are cyborgs–a hybrid of organism and machine. This has come as a result of the embodiment of military technology, as most things have. Cell phones, the internet, antibiotics, are all examples of things that we use on a daily basis (and are arguably addicted to) that came from military technology. Some people with mental illnesses would be considered cyborgs because they take medication, and this is a good thing.

What do you think?

We never know when mental illness is going to happen to someone. We may be able to predict it through family history, but for the most part it can happen to anyone, at anytime. Now, certain groups mentioned in my previous post may have some ideas about what causes mental illness. People in the Act of God/fate group might say that mental illness is a choice, or that people are being punished for lack of faith or sinning. Others in the Act of Nature group might say that genetics, brain chemistry, and infections are at fault. People in the Nature vs. Society group may offer genetics as well as a whole host of other environmental factors like psychological trauma, dysfunctional family life, or death of a loved one. People who argue for Social Constructions though might say that some mental illnesses are entirely based on society such as eating disorders. If society didn’t perpetuate the idea that women need to be very thin in order to be beautiful, then perhaps there would be fewer people who suffered from the disease.

The conflict comes in when we try to figure out who is right and what to do about it before something bad happens like suicide or homicide. When terrible things happen like that as a result of mental illness, then it directly and indirectly impacts a sociotechnical system like a school, or families. It then can result in destruction of that infrastructure and then the media swoops in to capitalize on all of it.

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Concept Maps and Disasters

In class last week, we learned about the four theories of disasters which are; Acts of God/fate, Acts of Nature, Nature vs. Society, and Social Construction. I will explain these theories in relation to my own topic, mental illness.


1. Acts of fate/God

In essence, this theory suggests that disasters happen from a divine source, are uncontrollable, and that people are being punished for their wrong-doings.

In regards to mental illness, I would say that some religious groups would see this disaster as an act of god, based on the content of their religious text that they follow.

2. Acts of Nature

This theory takes a more scientific approach then acts of fate/god. This theory says that natural environmental disasters are bound to happen and are out of our control, and have nothing to do with punishment inflicted upon us by a greater being. Any natural disaster would fit into this category; earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc.

Many would argue that mental illness is an act of nature, that the mentally ill have problems with their genetic make-up and brain chemistry. I would say a fair amount of the general public and medical community take this stance.

3. Nature vs. Society

This theory talks about the use of two systems needed to be in place in order for a disaster to occur. One is a vulnerable human made system (society) and the other an environmental hazard (nature). For example, lets say a tornado happened. A disaster would not necessarily occur unless there was people living in the area where the tornado hit, and their shelters were inadequate.

Genetic make-up does play a role in developing a mental illness, but environment plays a large role as well. Though your brain chemistry and genetic make-up may make you more susceptible to mental illness, the environment people are in can be that unfortunate push into post traumatic stress disorder, addiction, depression, or eating disorders as an example.

4. Social Construction

This theory explains the idea of “socially vulnerable populations”, that is to say that specific disasters are happening to specific people because society made it that way. Let’s go back to the tornado example. Disaster is happening because those people chose to build their houses in a high activity area for tornadoes. But let’s say that these people all happen to be under the poverty line, and they cannot afford to build their house in another area. The land is cheap in this area because of the high probability of a tornado. Therefore, you have disasters occurring to a specific vulnerable group of people because societal standards won’t let them build anywhere else.

As far as mental health goes, one could argue that the policies in our government regarding treatment and coverage of mental illness would be a social construction and what they classify as a mental illness, but this one is a bit harder to nail down.


One of my tasks is to identify two groups that are in conflict with each other. Having discussed the issue in class, there seems to be a big spiral of things happening between Act of Nature, and Nature vs. Society, almost as if they are in conflict with themselves. Many people don’t even like to acknowledge that mental illness is actually an illness. I would say that the biggest battle is the stigma against mental illness, and that can happen within any of the groups.

A Solution

To resolve the conflict of stigma against mental illness, we would need to make people more aware of the issue, and to advocate and understand for those who do suffer. The issue would need to be talked about openly and honestly by all before disasters such as suicides or homicides could occur. Those who seek treatment are less likely to harm themselves or others.