Today even though 40 million+ Americans suffer from mental health issues, navigating a mental health crisis remains a mess. Due to little awareness and stigma, knowing where to start is often a daunting experience.

In this situation, how can we support Americans better navigate a mental health crisis?

Hero image for NAMI app

Mental Health Ecosystem

The challenge is huge. When we think of mental health ecosystem in the US several entities come into picture. They range from patients, caregivers, clinicians to government and insurance providers.

My Role

I worked on this project as a UX Designer alongside 2 UX researchers for a duration of 8 months. This project was collaboration between Georgia Tech and NAMI(National Alliance on Mental Illness), which is the largest grassroots organization for generating awareness on mental health issues.

The project was challenging and emphasized universal and accessible design practices.

Image: Brainstorming session with team
Brainstorming session with the team

Project Goal

As the project domain was huge, we met with the stakeholders to define a scope of the project. After discussion, we drafted our project goal.

Design a solution which can provide a single source of comprehensive local resources to:
1. Patients
2. Caregivers
3. First responders

Timeline

The project was spread over 2 semesters:

  • First semster involved conducting research, developing a strategy, and getting feedback on the potential solution.
  • Second semester, was refining the designs and stakeholder handoff for product development.

Image: Project Timeline
Phase 1

Research


Role of technology?

We analyzed over 30 research papers to figure where techonology can intervene during a mental health crisis.

Research paper images

Insight icon During a mental health crisis, even simple tasks look daunting. Thus, the solution must provide personalized info & feel approachable.



What's out there?

We reviewed 18+ apps which provided resources for mental health.

Competitive Apps

Insight icon Existing apps lacked use of everyday language which people can easily relate to and associate with.



Resource categorization

NAMI provides several informational pamphlets during their sessions for generating awareness on mental health.

Image: Card sorting

Insight icon We analyzed and categorized 50+ pamphlets and developed 5 categories to organize the resources.

Phase 2

Synthesizing Insights


Context Map

To organize our findings about context of patients, caregivers and first responders we created a context map.

Patient Context Map
Patient Context Map


Patient Journey

After examining several blogs, podcasts, articles we created a patient journey. We mapped emotions, experience and needs at every stage.


We decided to design a mobile app as our strategy to achieve our goal for 3 reasons: universal availability, offline access to content, personalize-able.
Mental Health Patient Journey
Phase 3

Prototype Creation

I created the information architecture of the app based on the resource categories and developed a concept prototype to get feedback from the users.

Images: Information Architecture
App Information Architecture


Concept Prototype

I used Figma to create a concept prototype.

Phase 4

User Feedback


Participatory Design Feedback

We conducted participatory design session to evaluate our approach with a police officer, clinical social worker, student caregiver and a mental health activist. We used stickies and dot voting to get their feedback on the concept designs.

    Main findings from the focus group:
  • Landing page confusing– The app's landing screen provides resources for different users, with an ability to filter. However, showing all the resources upfront causes confusion.

  • Everything relevant in one place– We segregated resources in distinct sections with a hope to enhance findability. However, we discovered that users need all relevant resources in one place.

  • Not comfortable calling– Young adults are not comfortable directly calling on an unknown number. They don’t know what to expect.

Phase 5

Final Design

Final designs incorporated feedback from the focus groups. It was a complete revamp of the app architecture to make it more understandable. We brought all resources in one place providing ability to favorite and added a chat function which is more comfortable for young adults.


Interactive Prototype

The Design


Personalizing landing experience

In onboarding we identify motivation of the user and surface relevant content right away thus, saving them from hunting for filters or searching information.



Using everyday language

We avoid the use of medical jargons and use everyday language which people can easily associate with. This makes the app approachable.



Easy findability

We surface relevant filters at every stage and support a map view. It thus, reduces the effort and time required to find help.

Next Steps

As next steps, this app prototype will be developed into a fully fuctional product by development team in NAMI.

I hope our work will have a positive impact of millions of Americans, helping them navigate the mental health crisis effectively.

Find out more about my work.