Engaging young people in mental health research

2 min read

The sensitivity of the mental health field pose real challenges to the opportunity for active engagement in the mental health research. Without further research — a lack of time invested and funding given — innovation in mental health science will slow at pace.

During our project with Wellcome we explored the mental health landscape globally, taking a human-centred design approach to uncover real stories, barriers and expectations for how we might improve engagement with young people with lived experience of anxiety and/or depression.

We found companies like Monzo already doing great things to design with mental health in mind and offering voluntary disclosure for support, something really important when dealing with finances. We saw that self-care apps are booming with the likes of Headspace designing calm and simple experiences to provide meditation services.

Making services accessible to everyone is something Government Digital Service has been doing a great job at applying. This article by Mark Avery, Writing with mental health in mind talks about ensuring all services are accessible for people with mental health conditions and do not encourage further increased feelings of anxiety.

Using prototypes to inform research

We create early, real versions of our ideas and models, a valuable tool for researching and co-creation. These lo-fidelity clickable prototypes, help to mitigate risks and inform the case for next actions. We designed an online experience that would be calming, reassuring and motivating for people with anxiety / depression. We created a friendly visual style for inclusivity and designed for security and privacy features. The first iteration looked like this:



We tested the prototype of ANDI tested with people with lived experience in UK, USA, Canada & Costa Rica for feedback on the concept as a whole. Alongside this, we spoke and co-created in workshops with young people with lived experience of anxiety and/or depression. Speaking to my own friends and network about their mental health was also eyeopening. 1 in 4 people suffer with their mental health and I’m so happy to see more people speaking up about their experiences. As part of our humanity, we need more research and understanding in the science of mental health collectively. This means we need more time and money to dedicate to this field.

To really scale engagement in mental health science we believe the voice of the public can be amplified by leveraging platform technologies to crowdsource ideas, data and participation from around the world. The key learnings were that:

  • Young people are absolutely willing to co-create studies and play a more significant role in shaping the field.
  • Making mental health studies salient are vital to engage people at the right time.
  • Speak to people with lived experience values, not to their conditions.
  • And importantly, make the academic field more approachable, personable, culturally-diverse and inclusive so it’s accessible to all.

Here’s a quick visual we made to share with the participants of our project of how we worked with Wellcome TrustMQMcPin Foundation and YoungMinds as well as people with lived experience to create a strategy to engage more young people in mental health research #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

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