Raising awareness and creating empathy between students.
Just a Day is a simulation designed to promote awareness of the mental health issues that many college students suffer from. With this project we strive to create empathy on campus and remove the stigma on mental health.
user interface design
video / animations
case study design
The number of college students suffering from anxiety and depression is growing and there are not enough accessible resources on college campuses, Students are avoiding getting help because of the stigma on mental health, or because their own mental health is what’s stopping them from getting the treatment they need.
By creating an interactive simulation that gives visitors an idea of what it’s like to suffer from anxiety and depression, we can promote empathy between students. Just a Day will take visitors through a day in the life of a college student with mental illness. This simulation will allow the visitor to make decisions for a given character, also giving data visualizations of statistics that pertain to the issue, and concluding with information of where they can get help or support.
After deciding on the topic of mental health we did research to see what was already out there; from exhibitions about depression, to theoretical apps allowing communication about mental illness between strangers. These ideas gave us some direction towards an interactive exhibit.
We conducted an online survey with questions about the mental health facilities on campus, the survey was taken by 107 current and past students of Western Washington University. Here’s some of the information we gathered:
In addition to these statistics we received over 50 written responses when asked about why students looked for help off campus and what other concerns they had. Many of them explaining how the services on campus are focused on quick fixes, rather than long term treatment, and that they are uninformed about the variety of different mental illnesses.
When we began our research we knew that we had two main goals; to raise awareness, and to create empathy between students. One thing that got us on track was using the "How Might We" process, writing out different ways that we could make a positive impact on mental health issues. After combining similar ideas and narrowing them down, we created a pyramid ranking them by level of importance.
From here we decided on the idea of "Just a Day" and creating a simulation of a day in the life of someone suffering from anxiety and depression. We wanted the simulation to take the user through different locations and different scenarios where they had to make decisions and then face the result that their character experiences.
Our concept for the simulation was for people to enter the exhibit and receive a tablet that would introduce them to their character and then instruct them to go to their first location (each wall of the exhibit would represent a different location). They would then be taken through their first scenario.
Conveying this idea with paper prototypes was difficult, but with our explanation the users began to understand. We were advised to streamline the back and forth from tablet to wall display, which we worked on with our digital prototypes.
With our first set of digital prototypes for the tablet we were given similar feedback about confusion between the tablet screen and the projection in front of them. Users also were uncomfortable not knowing how far along they were in the simulation, and wanted a way to go back after making decisions.
After editing the tablet screen display, we added the point of view videos and scenarios to be projected in front of the user. At this point we were getting to a more realistic idea of the flow of the exhibit.
Once we had our concept nailed down, we began to gather assets to put the simulation together. Using video, data visualization, user input, and storytelling, Just a Day started coming together. The flow of the exhibit is described below, as well as a visual example of what the space could look like.
Our installation begins with different projections on each wall representing different locations, the users are given a tablet that tells them a bit about their character and sends them to their first location.
Point of View Videos
When the user gets to their location, the responsive nature and seamlessness of the tablet and projection experience begins. A point of view video simulation is projected on the wall and a description of the scenario appears, the tablet responds with options that the user chooses for their character.
After choosing a pathway for the character, the result appears followed by an animated statistic pertaining to that specific scenario.
The first screen is an introduction to the installation. You are given the description of your character and can begin the simulation. The displays on the tablet are simple and to the point, giving you clear options and direction throughout the exhibit.
Here is a video of how the exhibit would flow and what the space would look like, as well as the relationship between the tablet and the projected videos.
Tackling a topic as sensitive as mental health was a daunting and difficult task. There were multiple factors to consider; our language, our audience, and the feelings of those with mental health issues. This project took a lot of work and a lot of discussion and planning to get right, but it's an important topic that needs to be talked about.