General News Research Therapies — 05 July 2017

After her own negative experiences with mental health services, graduate designer Sara Lopez Ibanez developed a self-assessment kit that lets users figure out the kind of help they need, and where they can get it from.

Ibanez developed Mindnosis for her graduate project from the BA product design course at London university Central Saint Martins.

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Having experienced issues with mental health herself, the designer wanted to create something that would assist those in similar situation.

“When I was 17 I became unwell for a year,” Ibanez told Dezeen. “Accessing and using mental health services was a very traumatic experience which I buried and felt ashamed of for a long time.”

“Years after I discovered many people had had similar experiences and we all shared the same thoughts. That is why I decided to use design to redefine what an empathetic mental health assessment can look like, as done by people who had gone through it.”

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Her research began by reading up on the UK’s approach to mental health services, as well what all the different types of therapy can offer. She also regularly attended mental health-related events, where she would speak to doctors and patients as well as NHS commissioners.

From all the information gathered, she realised it was the initial communication between patients and their GPs that was a particularly difficult point.

“The tools are a set of exercises to help understand emotional distress and how to feel better about it,” she said. “They were designed with people who have had experiences of mental health, in order to help others navigate their problems and reach out for help.”

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The first tool, named Discover, is made of six colourful triangles that each represent a different area that may be affecting the user’s wellbeing.

The user chooses the triangles they feel most apply to their situation, and these can be pasted into the Record journal along with daily thoughts and reflections.

The third element of the toolkit, named Try Out, is a set of eight activity cards that combine mindfulness, cognitive behaviour therapy techniques (CBT) and tips from peers to help users when they feel unwell.

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The fourth one, Learn, has six small coloured cards that correspond with the Discover triangles and feature brief explanations of the different issues, while a Crisis Help sheet has information regarding access to services and helplines.

“It is very difficult to face a GP to speak about how you feel emotionally, the first time you become unwell,” said Lopez. “I personally could not talk, so I decided to use objects to help navigate your distress and become a tool you can use to communicate it to others.”

“I believe it is important to be able to explore your concerns and try to make sense of them, before you feel ready to open up to others. As well as giving you information about wellbeing initiatives happening locally, so you have plenty of free resources while you wait for an appointment.”

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Mental health is becoming an increasingly explored topic in design, particularly among graduates.

At last year’s Design Academy Eindhoven graduate show, designer Nicolette Bodewes presented a tactile toolkit designed to be used in psychotherapy sessions, while Yi-Fei Chen channelled her personal struggle with speaking her mind into a gun that fires her tears.

The Central Saint Martins graduate exhibition ran until 25 June. Other projects on show included a virtual-reality sex-toy kit intended to help rehabilitate those with “extreme sexual fantasies” and a group of misbehaving robots designed purely to annoy you.

This piece by Alice Morby was first seen on ‘’ July 4 2017.


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