DESIGN RESEARCH · SYSTEMS DESIGN · UX

Mental Health Classroom Kits

Mental health concerns are becoming an increasingly serious problem in our society, especially for younger people. Although mental health awareness is increasing in our culture, there is still much need for improvement of destigmatization and support within our system.

For this project, my partner Kendra and I explored the mental health system within elementary schools, and sought for areas we could leverage change. We ultimately created a storybook kit aimed toward sparking a conversation between students, adults, and teachers.

Project type: Partner with Kendra Wong
Duration: 4 weeks (Spring 2018)
Tools: Sketch, Photoshop, Keynote

 

1 in 5 youth in the U.S. live with mental health conditions, and less than half of them receive the help they need.
The start of many mental health conditions occur in adolescence.

From our secondary research, Kendra and I created a few diagrams of the current mental health situation for American adolescents to further understand the system and find opportunity areas.

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We interviewed four types of people involved in the system - an elementary school teacher, a high school teacher, a college professor, and a student diagnosed with mental health conditions. From these interviews and our previous research, we pulled out two key pain points.

interviewees

Training for teachers and other school staff to recognize and help students with mental health conditions is minimal.

“Over the last 25 years of teaching, I had a total of 6 - 8 hours of formal [mental health] instruction.”
- Laurie

“There is no periodic training - usually it’s CPR training every 2 years.”
- Mary

Lack of visibility for mental health - stigma and lack of trained school personnel reinforces a blind eye to mental health conditions.

“I felt like I was going to be viewed as stupid, I felt really embarrassed.”
- Victoria

“I’ve walked a number of students to the counselling center because it was that critical.”
- Laurie

“There is not enough support in the school systems. There should be way more psychologists, counsellors and therapists, usually there is only one.”
- Mary

DESIGN OPPORTUNITIES

How might we...

...help educate children to understand mental health better so they can understand themselves and support each other?

...help teachers keep mental health on the forefront of their minds rather than in the back?

Mental Health Classroom Kits (K-6)

We came up with a classroom kit for grades K-3. Our vision is a set of books - each one comes with a reference card for the teacher, and a take home activity for the students and parents. As the children get older, the books focus on more complex mental health conditions. 

We also worked on a white paper throughout the project detailing the problem and our solution.

For our project, we created an example kit for dyslexia.

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Children's Book

Kendra and I worked together to develop the story, and I created the illustrations. The book tells the story of a young monkey attending school and struggling with dyslexia. The book is meant to be read in a classroom setting.

LINK TO FULL BOOK PDF

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Reference Card

The reference card is short and informative to the teacher, and refreshes their knowledge without taking too much time. After several stories, these reference cards can be slid into a binder and referred to at any time.

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Activity Card

The activity card is meant to be taken home by the students to complete, with their family. The front of the card is for the students to reflect on what they learned, and the back is for the family to understand what is being taught in class.

Diagramming our solution helped us understand and guide us in how we wanted it to affect the system.

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Ultimately, we wanted our goal to be creating conversation around mental health. Despite the possible pain points of our solution in the system, we believe that bringing these issues to the surface and being able to talk about it in an open classroom environment has much more potential and opportunity to make a difference as opposed to being unaware or avoiding them.

LEARNINGS & NEXT STEPS

This project was exciting for me because Kendra and I worked on a topic we are both passionate about, and we got to delve deeper into a specific part of a larger complex system. I learned to distinguish and look for areas that had high potential for change and would not require an impossible amount of time, effort and changes in other aspects of the system to be implemented. Diagramming the system and our solution in different ways really helped me to see how information and actions flow between the different parts.