Generative research, prototyping, concept testing, visual design, video
Although many college students would agree that receiving support from friends is an essential part of treating anxiety and depression, not all are prepared to have conversations about mental health. Friends fear they will say the wrong thing. Individuals with anxiety and depression fear rejection, alienation and pity. Despite these fears, 67% of college students tell a friend they are feeling suicidal before telling anyone else. I developed a game to help college students practice thoughtful conversations, including about personal mental health.
I conducted six generative sessions with individuals experiencing anxiety, depression, or both.
To better understand anxiety and depression, I also consulted Marriage and Family Therapist, Erin Hiebsch, and Tabitha Kirkland, educator & social psychologist.
Insights & Opportunities
Barriers for conversations occur on both sides: individuals who experience anxiety or depression, and the friends who notice these signs (but are unsure of how to engage).
Individuals experiencing anxiety or depression want space to talk about the way they feel.
Anxiety and depression cannot be solved with a quick one-off interaction. The solution must encourage long-term behavior change.
Provide opportunities to talk about personal mental health in safe environments.
Reduce fear of speaking about mental health by folding into larger discussions about past experiences and hopes for the future.
Concept: A multi-player card game
Unspoken is a multi-player card game that incorporates methodology from positive psychology, which is a developing field that encourages individuals to reflect on the experiences that make them happy. The five categories of the game—empathy, gratitude, past, future and mystery— represent different elements of happiness as identified in positive psychology frameworks. Questions in all five categories encourage players to talk about their mental health, identify goals for the future, and reflect on the activities that they truly enjoy.
Unspoken is intended to be played by groups of college-aged students, roommates and friends. In order to produce sincere and unique answers, this game is best played in groups of 3-5 individuals.
The game begins when the first player picks the top card from the shuffled deck. During their turn, the player reads aloud and answers the card’s question. Once their turn is over, the next player can choose to answer the same question, or draw a new card from the top of the pile. The game ends when all players have answered a question from each of the five categories.
Playing this game encourages college students to value their mental health and find activities that give their life meaning.
Unspoken teaches college students how to talk about mental health in a fun, personal way.
I conducted two follow-up interviews with participants to gauge their reaction to the concept & initial questions, and their interest in playing the game with their friends. I also ran two live demonstrations with groups of friends (one group of 3, one group of 8) to pressure test the enjoyment and speed of the game. The questions were adjusted between tests in response to feedback.
In order to visually represent the personal & organic nature of this game, I hand-scripted the category names & painted the abstract patterns. The color palette is relaxing and up-lifting.
Project installation featured in the University of Washington Design Show