Coming from a Product Design background in Politecnico di Torino I am now finishing a MA in Innovation Design and Environmental Design.
The following study explores what the digital support for mental health is, and the relationship that people have with it. The research is based on interactions with people connected with mental health support. Different methods were used to get information from the people, such as digital interactive workshops and video interviews.
Stage1. Observation. The first step in the research came from the analysis of the current online support for mental health. This observation was intended to be a starting point in the understanding of the topic, and at the same time it has turned out to be the beginning point for the understanding of the problems connected to this service.
Stage2. DeskResearch. The literature was done to better understand the potential of the digital tools in the mental health sector, following the citations and the references from other articles in the same field. The study of the literature concluded in the analysis of different therapies ( CBT, ACT ) used in the digital online services, and of the digital tools used by therapists as extra tools for their sessions.
Stage3. Interviews.The interviews were done to experts of the field to receive their viewpoint of the digital mental health support compared with the more traditional face to face therapy. During the lockdown therapists were obliged to use digital media to get in touch with their patients and conduct their sessions. The feedback from the therapists interviewed were absolutely positive and encouraging for the future of the sector. A therapist though underlined the problems about the accessibility of digital mental health, especially for the lack of safe places where to do online sessions, as reported by some of his patients.
Stage4. Workshop. The workshop was meant to get information and experiences from the users of the mental health support and digital mental health support. It was a fully online and interactive workshop designed to help people to speak about their personal experiences in an open way, ensuring the maximum privacy. The results were, again, focused on the problems of accessibility of different online services, above young adults leaving with family, not feeling at ease to have online sessions with the possibility of someone hearing from another room.
Stage5. Modelling. The designing of the intervention came exactly from the problem found in the previous research: the accessibility of digital mental health. This idea consists in a net of SafeRooms to be located in cities and urban areas. A SafeRoom is simply a room in which your privacy is guaranteed, where it is possible to access the digital support systems that already exist online. Inside these rooms you can find all the tools you might need during a complete digital session. To be free and open this net of rooms will be placed in public and open spaces. Libraries, schools and universities are the best locations, but there could be many others. The important thing is to give people a safe place where they can feel comfortable while having mental health support.
The renderings of the intervention were given to the participants of the workshop to get feedback, that were positive and people were giving interesting stimuli for future possibilities of this service.
Conclusion.This journey brought to the definition of a problem that some people are facing now and probably more people will in the future. The intervention is just the first step to try to resolve this situation, but is a good base for further research.
The next steps for this design project are to keep organizing workshops with users to codesign the layout of the SafeRooms and their more suitable locations. Another extremely important perspective is that the initial concept was based on the idea “to make mental health support in step with the times of technology”.This project has to be fluid and able to change as fast as technology evolves.