POST 8: Brainstorming possibilities for a design response // Mental health


So, it has all been leading up to this. After the past six weeks of mind-mapping, researching, brainstorming and not knowing what the hell I am doing, we were finally told to begin creating possible design responses to our specific issue. In order to start this, as expected, we drew up more mind-maps and collaboratively brainstormed ideas within our issue groups. It’s been long and ambiguous journey to get to this point so I was excited to finally think about how I could visualise my specific issue.

The Five W’S

The first task we were given in class was write about our specific topic individually based on the five w’s in order to create a problem statement to clearly articulate the problem. Again, I felt like I was just writing the same things I’ve been writing this whole semester but into different categories. However, this writing process and the feedback I received from my group helped flesh out my topic. Below is how I broke down my topic; the stigma and discrimination from health professionals experience by people suffering with mental health issues:

  1. WHO does the problem affect?
    The main stakeholders and actors this problem affects are mentally ill patients and health professionals. However, it is not just limited to these people. It has the potential to affect people who are yet to experience mental health issues. 
  2. WHAT are the boundaries of the issue?
    The boundaries of this issue are structural due to the connection to the health care system. Through my research, I discovered their is a lack of empathy, understanding and training in some health care professionals when dealing with mentally ill patients. Misdiagnosis, generalisations of patients and a lack of respect from doctors are large factors that contribute to stigma. In this situation, the doctor calls the shots and the patient should be able to trust them, but in may instances they don’t.
  3. WHEN does it occur?
    The root of this problem is when people suffering form mental health issues are frightened or uncomfortable seeking help. The problem then occurs when they speak to a health professional who may perhaps discriminate their illness without realising they are doing it.
  4. WHERE does the problem occur?
    The problem occurs within the health care system and also set behaviours in society. In this instance, stigma happens face-to-face during doctors appointments and the affects of this experience can be carried out afterwards.
  5. WHY is this issue important?
    This issue is important as it continually affects people with mental health issues and also affects the publics trust in our health care system. There appears to be a lack of trust towards doctors and a lack of respect received from doctors. It’s a set mentality in society that people with mental health issues are just overreacting or hypercondriacs. Health care professionals especially shouldn’t be influenced by this mentality. People need to feel comfortable to seek help from a doctor and common language/ dialogue needs to be create to help break this stigma.


Problem Statement

So, from this rant about my specific topic and after a discussion about it with my group, I came up with the following problem statement:

The disconnect experienced by patients affected by mental health issues in communication and interactions with health professionals.

In simpler terms, making the experience of healthcare more human.


Once we all had our problem statements, it was time to brainstorm. My group and I discussed simplifying communication between patient and doctor in order to create a more comfortable and common dialogue. This would ultimately help break the stigma of people not wanting to seek help and the stigma experienced by patients from health professionals. Another area that we identified within my problem statement was the influential forces of our environments. In this case, going to the doctor should be a comfortable space for patients, yet at the moment it seems to be the opposite for many people. One of my group members also directed me to a current medical design response called Babybe which helps regulate the heartbeat of babies. This created another direction of providing care and guidance outside of healthcare for people suffering with mental health issues. This brainstorming session was quite rushed but I gained some good direction from my group members for possible design responses.

My brainstorm mind-map based on my problem statement.

The following are five potential design responses that I am considering for my proposal:

  1. Improve communication between patients and doctors by creating a common language therefore building more trust in this relationship. 
  2. Assist patients in feeling comfortable in a health care setting through a meditative, environmental app aimed to relax and prepare the mind for stressful situations. 
  3. Evaluate the emotions felt in a doctor waiting room by getting patients to draw how they feel in order to accumulate a range of data to visualise. 
  4. Improve the training of health care professionals with an interactive design which highlights examples of stigma against people suffering from mental health issues. 
  5. Using an interactive map, demonstrate the relationship between patient and doctor and how important it is to have a respectful and trusting connection between the two stakeholders.


Draft Proposal

After brainstorming these five points, I have realised that the main problem within this topic is lack of communication. From this, I have written a draft proposal below to improve and develop my direction:

Through my design response, I want people to be able to feel comfortable to talk about their feelings, especially when interacting with a health care professional. We also need to stop the stigma that doctors inflict upon patients. So, there are problems from both sides of the issue which makes it even more complex. Ultimately, there needs to be more awareness that this is happening. I am especially passionate about this particular problem as it happened to both my dad and brother; they were too scared to talk about their mental health. It would be amazing if I could go back in time with a possible design response to help them through that tough time, knowing what I know now and understanding why they were scared.

Therefore, I propose to design a generative system within the space of a doctors waiting room for patients to interact with. The aim of the design is make the patient feel comfortable in that environment and to visualise their emotions by drawing and/or writing how they feel at the time. This enables the patients to connect with their thoughts and better understand them in order to communicate them to a doctor. This interactive design can be seen as a form meditation to prepare patients for their appointment. This data can then be collected to create a data base for future mental health patients and also health professionals to view and analyse. This way, the doctor can see how the patient is feeling before and during an appointment. This design repossess should open up a new and trusting dialogue between patient and doctor and should improve the stigma experiences by patients.

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