MENTAL HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Mental health has come to the forefront of a lot of people’s minds in the past couple years. Athletes such as Kevin Love and Naomi Osaka or stars like Demi Levoto and Beyonce talk openly about their own struggles with mental health reminding people that it is a part of daily life for alot of people. And I beleive we are just starting to hit the tip of an iceberg that has been lying just below the surface for a long time, as more and more people seem to come forward with these issues.
Personally I have known a lot of people who have struggled in the area of mental health, growing up around people with depression, or living with people in college with depression and anxiety that only a few close people really knew about. It is really something that affects all parts of society whether we recgnize it or not. I saw an opportunity to make this the focus of my capstone as the social norms seem to be changing in this area and people are starting to not see so much of a stigma around this area of mental health and wellness. In exploration I turned my attention on high schools as from initial desk research indicated that this is a pretty crucial time for mental development.
As students return to in person classes I saw it as an opportunity that in a moment of extreme disruption, schools have the opportunity to deliver disruptive innovations in the ways mental health supports are delivered.
Scope & Constraints
This project took place between July and August 2021. As part of my graduate program, my assignment was to design an end-to-end experience and apply our knowledge from the past 15 months. Throughout this capstone project, I researched, mapped workflows, built prototypes, and tested solutions with users. At the end give a 15 minute presentation and wrote a case study for my portfolio.
1.0 THE PROBLEM
Mental health is a complex and difficult subject, it spans a large range of problems and is often hard to get definitive data on due to the lack of data often available. As someone who does not have much experience firsthand of mental health issues, research became an integral part of this product as I really wanted to understand the space I was getting into.
1.1 Desk Research
According to the CDC 1 in 5 adolescents have a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
A Growing Problem
During the Pandemic 46% of teen parents said their child has shown signs of a new or worsening health condition
What Schools Offer
2012 to 2015 adolescents who used any mental health service in the year, 57% received some school based mental health service.
Once done with desk research, I created some audience profiles that were later turned into personas. This way I could feel a bit closer to them and understand the ‘Whys’ before I began creating solutions. Empathy is one of the hardest to uncover, so I pushed myself to make sure I understood who I was designing for.
I reached out to 3 people I saw as domain experts in the area of mental health, focusing on one school in particular, to get a comprehensive idea of how mental health is handled in high schools. These people were school counselors or teachers that had 20+ years of experience with mental health situations. I conducted hour long interviews with each of them to understand:
1. The processes around how the school identifies and supports mental health issues with their students
2. Things that they find successful and unsuccessful, shortcomings in the system
3. Privacy laws around handling this kind of sensitive information given it be minors
I also reached out and got three interviews with students in high school. I focused on students with a range of experiences with mental health, including those who have had diagnosable mental health issues as well as people who seemed to have no mental health problems.
1.4 Affinity Mapping
After running 6 interviews I took notes and grouped them into common themes
1.5 Key Takeaways
1. Across the country there is no state or federal approved or mandated ESL learning programs. ESL stands for Emotional social learning, and the closest thing you might find to it in the public school system at least in Washington is a 3 week module in their 9th grade health class, and for some students in elementary school, Kelso’s questions which teachers younger students how to deal with conflict. Other than that there is nothing, nothing about how to identify mental health issues or tools on how to manage them.
2. Currently the number one identifier for mental issues are teachers who work with students. This explains why oftentimes mental issues are most commonly spotted in grade school. Students when transitioning from elementary to middle school, go from having one teacher all day to having up to 7, teachers consequently go from having 30 students to sometimes 150+ which makes it more difficult to recognize signs of deteriorating mental health unless it is fairly obvious or the student comes directly to them.
3. Currently there is no singular way schools hold info on students, they avoid collecting data due to privacy reasons outside of things related academic performance. Any info they collect is usually anonymous.
1. There is a black hole of knowledge around how to get mental health help, they do not know the next steps or what would happen after talking to a friend or teacher
2. Confirming the School consolers point on no ESL learning in school, a lot do not feel they have the tools to deal with mental health, often they described being on a zoom call and people just saying, I feel bad, but not knowing what to do from there.
3. There are still stigmas around mental health issues, they don’t want to be outed or pulled out of class, but in a different program because it shows they are different.
1.6 Journey Map
After interviews I updated personas and created a user journey map to be able to synthasize insights and put myself in the position of someone who may be struggling with mental health in high school. This helped me empathize further with the users on a personal level.
2.1 Design Goals
Taking the insights from interviews I came up with a list of problems that need too be addressed in the product itself to give myself some clear design goals driven from what I identified as users needs.
1. It needs to incorporate daily ESL learning and practice into these students life.
2. It should not rely on teachers already stretched doing their normal job
3. It needs to provide clear next steps to reach out for help
4. It should be a barrierless resource
These provided clear goals to go back to and test my designs against.
2.2 Ideation and Wireframes
The assumption I had first made that I could create an app that would alert schools of students that may be at risk based on how they answered questions I realized was unfeasible due to the privacy issues brought up by subject matter experts . But also through talking with both students and counselors I realized that actually this may have not been the best way to approach it anyways. Students who had mental health issues often had to recognize the possibility within themselves first, and seeing the app as a reporting software rather than a tool too help students really seemed to not be addressing the problem of getting students the support they need.
From my sketches I came up with a few key features to address the design goals I had laid out.
Mindfulness requires only a few minutes of daily practice. Giving students a daily time to practice these skills by replacing attendance, something that students across the US go through daily and quickly would incorporate it into their daily routine. As you can see the prototype on the right, they would put in a code each day displayed in their home classroom
ESL awareness and tools
Quick questions that help students recognize their emotions followed by personalized recommendations based on answers give them both resources and skills to handle their mental health.
Reaching out was a key piece of this project as I had learned from interviews that reaching out was often the fastest way to recovery
Studies say that Gen Z is most comfortable using the medium of texting. Giving students the ability to anonymously reach out get help could help them to take steps to get help without barriers.
Giving Students also the chance to reach out when they are ready is also something that is important, the app makes in easy to progress to reaching out if needed to.
3.0 USABILITY TESTING
3.1 Usability Testing Results
Using the above screens I ran 3 seperate moderated usability tests with the target user group through zoom
4.2 Next Steps
4.3 Slide deck