Participating in the Design Patterns for Mental Health Community Meet-up
2 minute read
Last week, our team had the privilege of participating in and helping facilitate the first Design Patterns for Mental Health Community meet-up. Anna Pankin and Katy Dixon share how this virtual event brought together a diverse group of design professionals dedicated to the design and delivery of mental health products across the UK.
About the community
Over the past year, members of our team (shoutout to Chris Bush, Mar Murube, Katy Dixon, Sarah Knowles and Amy Czuba) have been working with other wonderful humans in the design community on the Mental Health Design Patterns Library (https://designpatternsformentalhealth.org/). The library is a collection of best practice guides to help organizations and individuals design mental health products and services that work for people. The intention is that the library will help everyone improve the commissioning, designing, and delivery of mental health services in the digital age.
Last week, our team had the privilege of participating in and helping facilitate the first Design Patterns for Mental Health Community meet-up. This virtual event brought together a diverse group of design professionals dedicated to the design and delivery of mental health products across the UK. It was rewarding to see the work grow and be opened up to the wider community.
The topic: “What Makes a Good Product or Service in this Space?”
While the Mental Health Design Patterns library was being built, the need emerged for practitioners in this field to connect and share knowledge. This initiative was led by Sarah Drummond and the meet-up format was an excellent way to foster the exchange of ideas, sharing of experiences, and promoting mutual learning among professionals designing mental health products and services.
Last week’s event featured three distinguished speakers who shared their expertise and experiences:
- Dr. Nejra van Zal
Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Human Factors at the Dyson School of Design Engineering, provided important considerations for designing mental health products and services, such as avoiding decisions based solely on empathy and instead making an effort to understand users and evaluate interventions rigorously.
- Charlotte Fountaine
Freelance Service Designer and former CPO/Co-founder of Kalda, offered insights into creating a mental health service app, sharing the ups and downs and lessons learned from the process.
- David Coyle
Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science at University College Dublin, an expert in Human-Computer Interaction, discussed the application of cognitive neuroscience in the design and understanding of healthcare technologies for mental health services.
The unconference experience
After a panel discussion on the thought-provoking talks, the second half of the meet-up was dedicated to an Unconference. Attendees actively participated by suggesting topics and questions for discussion. The most popular topics were selected through a voting process, and I was pleased to be involved with facilitating one of the breakout rooms. This format allowed participants to engage in meaningful discussions that interested them and network with like-minded individuals in smaller groups.
Among the topics discussed were:
- Bringing genuine lived experience into the design team: Importance of providing valuable perspectives and reducing team bias while ensuring well-being and safety while doing research, through measures like defining conversation boundaries, rotating researchers, conducting risk assessments, and considering diverse perspectives during synthesis.
- AI Trust and mental health: Recognizing the need for tailored information and support, challenges such as data availability, successful mental health suggestions, supply and demand, and safety. Emphasizing the importance of asking hard questions, considering co-piloting and human monitoring, and addressing risk and safety concerns.
- User Experience for traditionally marginalized groups: Prioritizing needs over labeling, adopting a progressive disclosure approach, and understanding the broader needs and contexts of individuals to provide appropriate support.
- Developing integrated health services when body and mind are connected but the NHS approaches things separately: Addressing the hindrances in the current NHS approach, which separates physical and mental health services, by shifting focus to the root causes, better coordination, peer knowledge sharing, improved training for GPs, and shifting towards a preventative approach with long-term outcomes in mind.
The Design Patterns for Mental Health Community meet-up was an invaluable event that fostered collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and inspiration among professionals in this important field. The importance of designing ethical services and products was highlighted, especially in an environment with thousands of mental health apps commercially available, some of which cause harm to their users by providing inaccurate (or sometimes dangerous) information or using data unethically.
The insightful talks, interactive unconference format, and engaging discussions reinforced the significance of user research and empathetic design in this field. Understanding the people we design for, testing our services with representative users, and engaging with subject matter experts are all crucial steps in designing for any space, especially the sensitive space of mental health.
We're is proud to be part of this initiative and we look forward to our future collaborations with the Design Patterns for Mental Health Community, where we can share our experiences and expertise, as well as learn from our peers in a warm and welcoming environment.
(*The proceeds from this meet-up went to support Switchboard, an LGBT+ helpline.)