Preventing Mental Illeness

Service Design   Interaction Design 

How might we support parents and children 

to build emotional resilience?

BOUNCE WORKS
logo-01.png
The Challenge 

Mental health is one of those notoriously wicked and complex problems. One in ten children has a diagnosable problem in the UK while 460.000 children have been referred to NHS. As the prediction for the future is even worse, prevention and early intervention become essential. Through this project, we’re not aiming to design for the extreme cases where serious care and prolonged medication is required. We are designing for healthy children and families to prevent mental illness from developing in the first place.  Ultimately our challenge is: How might we support parents and children to build emotional resilience? 

 

The brief was assigned by Bounce Works, a social enterprise working with children as part of my MA in Service Design at Royal College of Art. The team and decided to involved a second project partner, CPI (BGG Foundation) and explore the role of government and the future of public health services. 

The Outcome

Keeping a dairy and checking in your daily emotional and thoughts is found to be helpful to prevent mental illness and live a calmer and balanced life. Journaling has several benefits as it has been shown to optimise both hemispheres of the brain since writing engages both the logical and creative side of your brains.

 

Wellie, is a Journalling service for the whole family: children have access to a printed Journal when they can log their days, and weekly goals and parents can use the digital app in which they can keep track of their emotions and gain meaningful insights on the whole family’s emotional well-being.

 

The Journal is informed by the Polyvagal their and the CBT psychotherapy methodology. It enables the understanding of emotions, mindfulness and awareness of your mind and body. Besides, as Dr Porges suggests, our brain needs touch, eye contact and a warm hug. Thus the journal encourages face two face meaningful interactions between the family. 

01
Research
Understanding the Context

We began our research aiming to understand the landscape of mental health in the UK, the services and strategy provided by NHS and the study the science. Furthermore, in this phase, we wanted to understand the landscape of families in the UK, and the main relationships that occur between children and adults ( parents, extended family, caregivers etc ). From our research, the main insight we got is that in order to prevent mental illness, it is essential to building emotional resilience from a young age. 

 

On a biological level, resilience results in healthy development because it protects the developing brain and other organs from the disruptions produced by excessive activation of stress responses. Stated simply, resilience transforms potentially toxic stress into tolerable stress. What all the research pointed us to is that the single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adults. Working with psychologists we gained an understanding of psychological theories like the polyvagal theory, CBT and reviewed existing bibliography on the formation of strong relationships.

 

Finally, an essential goal of our initial research was to understand the drivers and trends shaping the future of healthcare services.

Future of HealthCare
Human - Centered Research
Insights
02
Prototyping
Insights to Propositions

Taking into consideration the insights from the interviews we also tried to inform our design process with science on mental health. For that we used the input from Bounce Works and psychologists, both from the private and public sector. We based our prototype services on the polyvagal theory that suggests that physical interactions, strong relationships and emotional awareness are essential for emotional stability. In addition, we explored the habits that contribute to emotional resilience and we used the framework from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which uses a specific event that happened and ask the child to name the emotions and actions associated with it.

 

Putting it all-together we agreed upon the following design principles that drove our process:

1. Preventative

It’s all about employing children and families with the tools ahead of time to stop a problem before it becomes it arises.

 

2. Child-centered

We employed UX techniques specifically geared towards children that are supportive and encouraging

 

3. Decreasing Screen-time

The main concern with digital services for parents is screen time. We don’t aim to encourage screen-time, rather use it as effectively as possible.

 

4. Long-term

The solution is not about relief in a given moment, but driving long term positive habit creation.

User Testing and Iterations
03
Service Proposition

Wellie, is a Journalling service for the whole family: children have access to a printed Journal when they can log their days, and weekly goals and parents can use the digital app in which they can keep track of their emotions and gain meaningful insights on the whole family’s emotional well-being. 

 

​Keeping a dairy and checking in your daily emotional and thoughts is found to be helpful to prevent mental illness and live a calmer and balanced life. Journaling has several benefits as it has been shown to optimize both hemispheres of the brain since writing engages both the logical and creative side of your brains.

 

The Journal is informed by the Polyvagal and the CBT psychotherapy methodology. It enables the understanding of emotions, mindfulness and awareness of your mind and body. Besides, as Dr Porges suggests, our brain needs touch, eye contact and a warm hug. Thus the journal encourages face two face meaningful interactions between the family. 

Based on our user research, we realized that although people were keen on using the app to track their mood and explore the correlation with their child's mood, they were skeptical of the introduction of a digital screen right before bed time. Thus, we redesigned the experience and separated the mobile app for parents and printed scannable journals for the kids.

04
Learnings & Reflection

Our research consisted of secondary and primary research methods. As a first step, we used published reports and academic papers on psychology and mental illness therapy theories. Alongside, we used Mumsnet, and Facebook to get in touch with parents and local communities. Our secondary research helped the team redefine our design challenging and define the targeted demographics and characteristics of our primary research interviewees. As a second step, we conducted nine in-depth interviews with families in London, two half-day long observations, shadowing a family, and 

 

The above research informed the design of three service propositions in a day-long ideation workshop. The rapid prototypes of the above provisions were then presented to Bounce Work's team and evaluated based on expert's and user feedback leading to rapid cycles of iterations and the design of the final high fidelity prototype for Bounce Works.

 

Reflecting on the design process and output of the project, I redesigned the Double Diamond methodology that I believe responds to the demands of a design project: minimizing the initial research time and including the final audience as well as experts in the design process, not as  a source of insights but as a stakeholder of the project. This change regarding time management allows the design teams to devote more time in iterating and prototyping different solutions. 

Check how this project was implemented by Bounce Works