Reduce negative stigmas and improve wellbeing of college students

Role: UX Designer.
Project Type: Mobile Prototype
Team: Jason Lam, Peter Gray, Amy Bromley, and Bharathi Ram.
Contribution: Interaction Design, Prototyping, Concept Testing, and Stakeholder Interviews.
Deliverable: Interactive High Fidelity Prototype.


As part of the School of Public Health's Innovation in Action competition, we explored chronic conditions that affected well-being for college students. Through several preliminary interviews, we discovered a major barrier with accessing mental health services was negative social stigmas.  


Exploratory Research

We conducted stakeholder interviews with doctors, mental health providers, nurses, coordinators/directors of mental health services, students, and student groups. This research helped us discover that key barriers for students were formality, hierarchy and negative stigmatization of the word "Mental Illness". They were seeking daily, practical, informal peer to peer services. Mental health providers were struggling with limited mental health providers and overloaded capacity. Essentially, there was a significant gap for students who were struggling, but did not have a serious condition.


In addition to interviews, we conducted a focus group to discuss potential solutions and refine specific features. While analog interventions were considered, most students were interested in an anonymous social app. After several prototypes, students showed most interest in a tool that allowed them to write their feelings, using creative therapeutic prompts, within 300 characters. Additionally, they wanted to read and comment on other people's posts, in order to provide support. 



Our main focus was creating something that would have high impact with students. We ignored the potential disruption for existing mental health services and missed an opportunity to integrate a key stakeholder. This made it difficult for implementation and weakened our overall business plan.


We spent a few months conducting research and continually pivoted. Since the issue is complex with numerous potential solutions, a prototype early one would have helped us validating the idea and refining our target market.