Problem & Advice Sharing for Students
Supporting peer to peer sharing of problems and advice for students
Anxiety and depression is a prevalant and solitary experience for students. How do we reduce the stigma and increase engagement with mental health services?
Strategy & Planning
User Experience Design
Ripple is a service design project focusing on increasing engagement in mental health services for students with mild to medium anxiety and depression.
The service offers a more informal approach to sharing problems and discussing mental health. Ripple plays on the idea of students helping students and encourages reflection and sharing advice.
To gain insights and understanding into mental health, a number of people who have suffered with mental health difficulties in the past were interviewed about their feelings and experiences.
Due to the nature of mental health, we were unable to interview current sufferers of poor mental health for this project.
I also interviewed the student union president, the college counsellor and family members of mental health sufferers to factor in the perspectives on mental health from those who assist others.
Taking on the role of someone seeking out help for mental health, we embarked on a service safari to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced when seeking help with mental health services.
We uncovered difficulties and a lack of clarity surrounding the help being offered.
We set up a wall in a public space in the college and invited students to write about what mental health means to them.
People began using the wall to share their personal thoughts and problems, and we noticed that they began to reply to each other, offering advice.
Based on the research gathered, we created a persona to represent the most common user groups.
His persona and journey map represent his thoughts and feelings over the course of his college exams.
People have to want help before they'll get help.
“We tried several times to get them admitted to a psychiatric organisation but he didn’t tick all the boxes and he was let walk; he managed to cheat the system...”
There is a huge stigma surrounding mental health.
“It’s not seen to be as serious as a broken hand because nobody can see it and you’re probably still smiling.”
Helping others is used as a form of self help.
“I was never brave enough to approach anyone about my mental health, but I could help others.”
An all time low is often reached before seeking help.
“There’ve been a few incidents and he tried to end his own life at one stage, that was a fairly shocking experience.”
Using the persona I created empathy maps and brainstorms to uncover more about how people might feel about mental health and mental health services.
The empathy maps led to questions and how might we statements to help progress the ideation of the project. The primary how might we statement was:
"How might we increase engagement in personal mental health care for students with mild to medium anxiety & depression."
Quick and rough sketches were carried out to identify methods of increasing students engagement with their own mental health.
Based on the research, we saw that helping others was used as a form of self help. We wanted to help facilitate interactions between students to reduce stigma and increase community support.
I conducted user testing with a prototype aimed to encourage sharing advice among students. A problem or worry was presented on the table and left in a communal area to explore how students would react to it and if advice would be shared in a public space.
Students were happy to share advice, but when asked, they didn't feel too comfortable sharing problems surrounded by others in public.
To test the impact that privacy would have, a simple sheet of paper asking people to share their worries and give some advice were placed in bathrooms around the colege.
The engagement with this prototype was huge, people were sharing their problems and receiving positive and high quality advice.
An interesting insight from these tests was that the pages in the women's bathrooms were engaged with seriously, while the ones in the men's bathroom had some offensive content.
The tablet prototype would be placed in private areas around the college, displaying a worry to anyone who walks past. They would be prompted to give advice and share a worry of their own.
The digital concept allowed for the advice to be delivered to those who left the worry through a website.
A self sustaining system also reduced administration effort for the college.
DESIGN & TEST
The digital screens were tested for usability and user experience using click through prototypes. Iterative developments were made to the product to increase user expression.
A screen animation was shown to users to increase understanding of the various interactive aspects.
Links with the student union president were maintained throughout the project to ensure that we were consistent with what was right for the college and the students.
I brought the final concept to the president and discussed it with him. He really liked the concept, saying something like it should be in every college, but had concerns about if the college would fund it or not.
I believe that a strong level of research underlied this project to the end. Interviewees and key people such as the student union president were kept up to date on the progress and asked for feedback throughout all stages.
Due to the success of the bathroom posters, it would be important to explore the use of a digital prototype within a bathroom setting to evaluate how students would respond. It’s clear that location plays a major role in Ripple and is something that needs to be fine tuned in the future.
Upon finishing this project, I worked with the student union on deploying another version of the bathroom posters for official use within the college.