Struggles with mental health are prevalent among college students and only about a third of college students struggling with mental health issues actually seek help or treatment.
This was a solo project.
Encourage college students to seek help for mental health issues they may perceive as minor, and encourage people to look out for their peers.
PART 1: MALE MENTAL HEALTH
This project started off as a campaign highlighting the high ratio of male suicide rates compared to those of women.
Suicide is the biggest killer of British men under 45
Nearly eight in ten of all suicides are male
In England and Wales, suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 15–34
The highest suicide rates in the US are found in Caucasian men over 85
Suicide is the 7th leading cause of death among males
More than 4 times as many men than women die by suicide in the US
I began by conducting research to find out why these statistics were so drastic.
Men are less likely than women to seek help for depression, substance abuse and stressful life events due to social norms, reluctance to talk, and downplaying symptoms
Men with depression, for example, may express their illness through typically “masculine” behaviors, such as anger and alcohol abuse
During childhood, boys in our society are often taught to overcome any expression of sadness: many learn from their parents and other children that they are not supposed to express emotions or vulnerability and are taught to overcome their emotional responses so much that, by the time they grow up, they are unaware of their feelings and how to describe them
Overall, I concluded that these rates were largely down to toxic masculinity and the ideas that men should “toughen up,” and that “boys don’t cry.” Going forward I, therefore, decided to focus my campaign on the use of such words that may seem harmless but can have serious repurcussions.
I began by designing the following posters and mobile-optimized website.
The posters all hit the reader with a statement that promotes toxic masculinity, before going onto explain the issue and leading them to the web application. The website then briefly explains the issue before allowing the user to proceed as both a girl and boy, where they go through the same scenarios but receive starkly different treatment from those around them. They then get a fuller explanation and can access facts and statistics, as well as helplines.
The main feedback I received from critique was that although it was clear that my color scheme was trying to highlight the issues with gender stereotypes, it is not necessary to do so. I also received some feedback regarding minor details of the wording of the website.
I, therefore, changed the color scheme to just blue, white and black, tidied up the wording and revamped the overall poster and website design, the latter of which was prototyped with HTML and CSS.
I decided to return to this project after a few months, this time evolving it into a campaign aimed at all college students, encouraging them not only to speak out if they are struggling but also to look out for their peers.
I came up with the idea of SO/LO. SO/LO stands for Speak Out/Look Out, and is a peer-mentoring system in the form of a mobile application. It allows college students to anonymously discuss any mental health issues they are having, no matter how big or small the root cause.
Upon registering, users can either choose to Speak Out, Look Out, or both. If they choose to Look Out, they also have to agree to adhere to a set of guidelines. Once logged in, users can either start up a conversation or visit the ‘About’ section where they will find a description of the initiative, as well as helplines, tips, statistics, and the online shop, where they can purchase merchandise, with 50% of the proceeds going to a mental health charity of their choice.
I initially began by fleshing out the idea using the existing motifs and color scheme.
It was suggested in a critique that although this color scheme was strong for the male mental health campaign, the nature of this app is such that it would benefit from a more calming color scheme, especially as people are likely to be using it when they are feeling distressed. I therefore completely revamped the color scheme, using a gradient background made up of soft yellows and blues.
A video walkthrough of the final prototype can be found below.
In addition to the app, I decided to design some branded collateral. The merchandise available for purchase from the online store includes essential oils, “SO/LO Stack” (cards with wellness tips and positive mantras), and stress balls. Additionally, I designed promotional “freebies” including calming tea packs, coloring books, and laptop stickers, all of which could be given out at college events.
*click images to enlarge*
I intend to continue with this project, taking into account the feedback I received in critique. The main issue raised was the logistical nature of handling more serious issues that arise. Suggestions included having a moderator to whom the person ‘Looking Out’ can notify if they wish to hand over the situation, or if external services need to be called in. It was also pointed out that there should be measures in place for those ‘Looking Out’ to ensure that their mental health is not negatively impacted.