Stigmatized Shoes: A Simulation to Reduce Stigma Against Mental Illness
A diagnosable mental health disorder affects approximately one in four people in the United States each year. Unfortunately, most individuals with mental illness remain untreated, thanks in large part to the stigma that accompanies these disorders. Working closely with community partners, mental health specialists, stigmatized populations, and digital game designers, we seek to design, test, and implement a flexible and scalable Virtual Reality (VR) simulation to reduce mental illness stigma by helping those without mental health issues better empathize with those suffering from depression or anxiety. People who are mentally healthy grossly underestimate the severity of clinical depression and anxiety, attributing it largely to a lack of willpower. By participating in a simulation designed to replicate virtually the physical and emotional experience of clinical depression and anxiety, we believe the mentally healthy will better understand and empathize with those suffering from these disorders.