Vending Machine Dispenses Therapy Instead of Snacks

Who needs a candy bar when you can buy “courage” for less than $2?

Say you’re feeling angry. Or you’re feeling sad. A little lonely, maybe. In any one of these scenarios, you might reach for a snack — a chocolate bar, or a bag of potato chips. But imagine that you happen upon a vending machine that, instead of comfort food, dispenses something that may actually fulfill your emotional needs.

You simply tell the machine how you’re feeling and it replies by spitting out a piece of useful paraphernalia — something devised by mental health professionals to help you feel better when you walk away with your purchase.

This vending machine exists; it’s on display in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, until April 8 as part of an art installation called “Intangible Goods.” The machine will later float to other to-be-determined locations around Sydney.

Artists Elizabeth Commandeur and Mark Starmach collaborated with mental health professionals to design the packages, wrapped and labeled things like “Reassurance” and “Belonging.” Each packet costs 2 Australian dollars (about $1.50 USD) and contains items such as origami stars, maps, pencils, and written prompts.

“The purpose of Intangible Goods is to question whether our emotional and psychological needs are being fed by our society,” Starmach told The Daily Meal. “And if not, whether we could use the system we already have to do so.”

All proceeds from the machine will go towards organizations either researching mental illness or offering support to those experiencing mental health issues, including the Schizophrenia Research Institute at NeuRA, NSW Mental Health, Association (WayAhead), and beyondblue.

“Ultimately, we just want people to come together and have fun with this installation,” Starmach explained. “We’ve already seen people kiss, come down in groups from their office, and chat with strangers as a result of the work.”

Though the package labeled “Friendship” might not contain an actual new friend, it seems to be giving people the confidence or skills to make friends themselves — sometimes even at the site of the installation.

“Our goal is to really make everyday mental health a more approachable topic,” Commandeur told us, “all through this whimsical artwork.”


If you think this concept is wacky, wait until you see what dispenses from these wild vending machines from around the world.