Blog Post 8 // We have the information, but how do we respond?

Keegan Spring

Whilst at times brainstorming and mind mapping can appear tedious and repetitive, when one steps back and surveys the landscape of insights and proposals that have just been noted and acquired, it becomes obvious that such a step in the process is an integral part of attaining a well informed and rich conclusion or solution. An exemplar of this is found in the two brainstorming sessions which our group conducted, one individually and the other as a group.

Firstly, we were asked by our tutors to conduct a quick brainstorming session, individually, which was oriented around five questions:

  • Who does the problem affect?
  • What are the boundaries of the problem?
  • When does the problem occur? When does it need to be fixed?
  • Where does the problem occur? Where does it need to be fixed?
  • Why is it important?

At first I struggled to filter and condense my 6 or so weeks of research into such a small set of questions, but this was precisely the function and the benefit of this task. For up until this task, I had been dealing with this issue in a broad and overarching perspective, however, forcing me to refine and identify a tangible audience, for example, helped me come to my possible solutions which I will comment on later in this post.

The following are my responses to these questions with the problem being ‘Men feel uncomfortable talking about their emotions’:

  • Who does the problem affect?

Men of all ages. I am particularly interested in men in early adulthood (18-24) who are transitioning from being under parental care into independence.

  • What are the boundaries of the problem?

The boundaries include the societal pressures and stereotypes placed on men to be ‘tough’ and to ‘deal with’ or ‘fix’ problems. This often manifests itself in an unhealthy organisation structure of the work place in which men struggle to admit fault or ask questions about how to do things. It is also a product of a lack of awareness of the dangers that lie in disregarding or ignoring ones emotions and mental health.

  • When does the problem occur? When does it need to be fixed?

The problem occurs mostly in the formative years of both men and women, for example childhood and teenage years. For as we grow up and see the way in which men and women interact with each other, it becomes habitual and instinctive, thus the problem needs to be fixed now. The stigma and stereotyping must be not only banished and transformed within the younger population, but the older demographic must embrace and lead this change in order for real change to occur for good, rather than isolated situations.

  • Where does the problem occur? Where does it need to be fixed?

The problem occurs in any area in which there is influence. For example, in the home setting, a mother and father’s interaction between each other can provide unhealthy stereotypes, or even they might force unhealthy stereotypes on their children. I.e. ‘I will not pay for my son to see a psychologist to talk about his feelings, it’s a waste of time and is not worth it.’ Though this is not limited to the home space. This can occur in the workplace, school, university, a local sporting club. However, it needs to be fixed in these areas of great influence, particularly the home setting.

  • Why is it important?

It is important because a greater understanding and appreciation of good mental health can lead to a far better quality of life. It can:

  • reduce suicide
  • reduce depression
  • it can influence the family structure, home setting, workplace, etc.

I found this to be an enriching task as it oriented my mind and condensed all of my research into bite-sized, manageable chunks which then seamlessly prepared my mind as it transitioned into a collaborative mapping task which required quick thinking and information at the ready. After this exercise, we were asked to write in a sentence or two the problem that you wish to design a response for; this is my refined problem statement:

‘Men, moving into independence (out of parental care) who have mental health issues that affect their lives, but don’t feel comfortable talking about their feelings and/or don’t see the value in maintaining or achieving a good mental health.’

With this lens, my group and I were able to brainstorm possible design responses in the various emergent practices for both my problem and theirs. Here are the results of the map we conducted on my problem statement:

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As we mapped these design responses, we felt it would be most helpful to try and separate them into the three different emergent practices so that we could clearly identify specific responses and make sure that we were addressing each practice and brainstorming ideas for all possible outcomes. Here are five responses we generated as a group:

  • Service Design: Taking the model of tinder, the online dating application, this response would generate an application which connects people who are intentionally seeking to either find help or provide help. This would almost be an ‘emotional tinder’ which allows people to opt in and out of participation whenever they feel is necessary and/or safe.
  • Service Design: Create a starter kit for men moving out of home. This starter kit would be delivered to the new house that the male has just moved to and would provide information on mental health services, recreational activities, sporting clubs etc, in the area. This starter kit has the aim of connecting men in a community and modelling a healthy social life which is centred around interaction with people.
  • Generative Design: A system in which men submit either problems or words of encouragement to an application. This information is placed into an online database which will respond to whichever action you have taken. For example, if you have have submitted a ‘problem’ of ‘ I am struggling with anxiety’, they you receive something written by another person who has submitted it earlier which has words of advice or encouragement. Ultimately, helping men to talk about issues but in a far less invasive way.
  • Data Visualisation: A visualisation of the way in which mental health affects and disrupts the lives of men. Ultimately trying to demonstrate the value and importance of maintaining a healthy and stable mental wellbeing.
  • Data Visualisation: A data visualisation which compares the statuses of each gender that talk about emotions on Facebook. This would investigate how often men and women post about how they are feeling, what emotions are expressed the most on Facebook by each gender and other important data sets. 

Proposal Draft

Having generated these five points, I have concluded that a response which not only treats those suffering with mental health issues, but also prevents such issues to occur would be the most beneficial and desirable outcome. With this as a platform, I have constructed a design response below to bring clarity and tangibility to my research and design direction:

Through my design response, I aim to prepare young men, aged between 18-24 years, for a life of independence by giving them a handful of tools and resources necessary to maintain a healthy and balanced social life and head space. This response will be targeted towards men moving out of their parent’s home for the first time and will be implemented with the intention of guiding these men to be embedded within their new community. It is my understanding that a contributing factor to the high levels of anxiety and depression found within men, both young and old, is due to a lack of support networks within their lives which they regularly access. As is discussed in a previous post, this may not necessarily mean that they don’t have resources or support available, but rather that the support does not feel accessible to them as they are not comfortable engaging with and investing in that support. Thus, my response will help model healthy and effective methods of maintaining a healthy social life and mental wellbeing as they move into independence.

Therefore, I propose a service design that is issued and delivered to men who have recently moved out of home for the first time. This service design will be a suitcase which is filled with information specific to the area that they are moving into such as sporting clubs, different religious institutions, mental health services, parks, leisure centres, libraries and any other social resource which might help these men to meet new people or strengthen old friendships. In response to the research I have outlined in a previous post there is a great need ‘to design interventions specifically for young men that are action-based, focus on shifting behaviour and stigma, and are not simply about increasing mental health knowledge.’ [Ellis et al. 2014] Thus, I will tailor this kit to be action-based and task oriented as this will hopefully engage men with mental health in a way that hasn’t necessarily been explored extensively in other formal mental health interventions. Within this suitcase will also be a variety of challenges and tasks with an intention to motivate men into action, rather than complacency. Some examples of these challenges might be a calendar with a certain amount of pins or stickers, this calendar comes with instructions to intentionally organise a one to one social interaction with a friend or family member and put it on the calendar. Such a challenge not only models an exemplary social life at such a critical and impressionable stage of a person’s life, but also utilises haptic engagement and physical feedback to clearly demonstrate how much or how little the user is initiating interaction with their support network. A similar approach could be taken to guide the user into an active engagement into mindfulness or other helpful techniques. Such tasks and challenges help provide the users with clear goals and ultimately the satisfaction of achievement.

Whilst still in the ideation process, this proposal is still flexible and needs to be tweaked and refined, however, at it’s core, this service design is aimed to engage with men in a way that is helpful and accessible. It attempts to be both a treatment for any mental health issues that men might be encountering and a preventative for the future. Hopefully, by giving the user a set of challenges to be completed, the process of engaging with thoughts, emotions and feelings will become appealing and valuable to men, more so than it does for a great deal of men currently. The use of a suitcase and different tasks helps ease men into this process as these are typically associated with being ‘manly’. However, as the user engages with the service the overall intention is to break down these stereotypes, forcing the user to question what it means to be a man. It is particularly poignant as the intended audience are in a significant stage of their lives in which they are moving from being boys to men and thus are asking the question, “what does it mean to be a man?” And where society places ‘emphasis on men to be independent, to suppress emotion, and show a lack of vulnerability’ [Ellis et al. 2014] This service design says, ‘You are becoming a man. Now it is time to act like one’. Thus, instead of forcing stereotypes and unhelpful character traits upon these young men, it illuminates that part of becoming a man is dealing with emotions, becoming engaged in communities and proactively talking about the worries and stresses of life. This starter kit does not provide an all encompassing solution to the problem statement, but rather intends to begin this conversation by equipping men with tools and resources, which promote the value of, and an active engagement in, maintaining a healthy mental state. By targeting the audience to be 18-24 year old men who are moving out of home for the first time, this service design aims to begin these good and healthy habits at the beginning of their journey into adulthood, rather than when it is too late and a much more rigorous and professional approach is needed.

References

Ellis, L., Collin, P., Hurley, P., Davenport, T., Burns, J. & Hickie, I. 2013, ‘Young men’s attitudes and behaviour in relation to mental health and technology: implications for the development of online mental health services’, BMC Psychiatry, 13:119, < https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-244X-13-119 >

Ellis, L., Collin, P., Hurley, P., Davenport, T., Burns, J. & Hickie, I. 2013, ‘Young men’s attitudes and behaviour in relation to mental health and technology: implications for the development of online mental health services’, BMC Psychiatry, 13:119, < https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-244X-13-119 >

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