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1st floor, 68 Sackville Street
Manchester M1 3NJ

Wellcome Trust

Designing for diversity in mental health

We want more young people from BAME backgrounds take part in mental health research. To do that, we need to understand what is preventing people from taking part in the first place. This project applied prototyping to validate opportunity areas for better public engagement in mental health research.


In April 2018, we developed the research into mental health and found an overrepresentation of people from caucasian backgrounds and an underrepresentation of BAME and lower socio-economic groups in mental health research.

The research showed that not enough young people with mental health conditions from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are accessing help to treat their condition. Given that seeking treatment is one of the main routes to taking part in research, we need to find new ways to increase participation, so that the outputs of mental health research is inclusive and effective for all.

We wanted to identify clear needs and challenge areas, alongside generating a range of ideas of possible solutions to tackling the problem.


Applying our human-centred design approach we wanted to understand better what mental health means within BAME communities, what essential challenges to address, plus what solutions the communities would like to see implemented to break down barriers.

We partnered with Cultural Intelligence Hub, planning research and prototyping ideas to share with research participants to gain insights and hear stories from young people across five key cities (London, Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham and Leicester).

During the engagement, we conducted workshops and shared a range of lo-fi artefacts to inform the broader project conversation. We believed an additional way to gather additional insights into the cultural differences, as well as similarities, would be to introduce prototyping early in the process.

By better understanding, the barriers, attitudes and beliefs young people have concerning mental health/mental health research, and what factors further discourage people from accessing help, we will be better placed to identify and invest in opportunities for change that will lead to impact.


We used prototyping to understand what might and might not work for diverse communities. Key research themes informed areas of focus to test and validate our hypotheses.

Using behavioural personas and the mental health research journey map from the previous project with Wellcome, we rapidly prototyped by sketching, moving quickly from paper prototypes to clickable versions.

We used “How Might We…” questions to create ideas that would enable people to talk openly without human judgement, would be inclusive for a broad spectrum of complex identities, avoid excluding or alienating anyone.

This hypothesis statement helped drive focus: We believe that by creating a safe online space that is anonymous and inclusive, where people can hear stories from others and seek relevant cultural support. We will see more engagement because people feel safe to be open without fear of judgement.

We created two prototypes to test with potential users.

The prototype showed:

  • Positive response to an app (or online experience)
  • Chatbot is a good way of initiating dialogue for those who don’t want to talk to someone
  • Give people option to talk to a human sooner
  • Young people need explicit and repeated reassurance around safeguarding, privacy and confidentiality
  • People need further reassurance that stories are real and that culturally relevant
  • People react positively to being able to select multiple ethnicities to reflect their identity


Wellcome is co-developing solutions and advocating for a more inclusive mental health research field.

The project gained evidence from young people across the country of the problems faced within the communities. It bought together stakeholders, influencers, researchers, practitioners and community influencers to share these insights, identify challenges, develop and prioritise solutions to test.

Next steps will test and scale effective solutions that ensure more people from BAME backgrounds are represented in mental health research.


  • Support key stakeholders to directly inform opportunity areas for change, steering Wellcome on where we can make the most difference
  • People will lived experience of mental health can raise the profile of the needs and concerns, and help launch the opportunities for development
  • Provided resources to pursue initiatives that are relevant to the needs of their community
  • Designed visual tools, assets and outcomes from the research
  • Help to provide context to the influencers and communities
  • Facilitated key opportunity areas for transformation in the mental health field
  • Sprytar

    Facilitating park visits using Augmented Reality

  • Specialized

    Developing a community for women cyclists

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0161 236 9898

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1st floor, 68 Sackville Street
Manchester M1 3NJ