The inspiration for this project came from my interest in addressing the mental illness problem that plagues college campuses. 41% of college students reported suffering from a mental health issue (NAMI, 2016); the other 59% aren’t necessarily “safe” as mental health can affect any person like how physical health isn't confined to one demographic. Since mental health statistics depend on individuals self-reporting their personal issues, these figures are likely to be an understatement.
Examples of research findings
To figure out how students were dealing with mental health issues and problems they actually face, we conducted over 100 interviews with various students – some of the reoccurring pain points are shown above and below. We found that they struggled to make more time for the people that matter to them daily due to the busy nature of college life. My initial idea aimed to focus on automatically scheduling meet ups between friends to alleviate the pain of finding a time that works with both parties.
More research findings
After synthesizing our research, I created a user persona, named Taylor, to keep target audiences in mind throughout our process and avoid making assumptions.
Taylor is stressed from knowing what they want to do in life. On top of this, they have a hard time balancing academics, friends, and self-care. While they value time with friends, they struggle to see their friends as often as they would like due to the difficulty of finding time that works for both parties. If they spend long periods of time alone, which is often the case before midterms when they have the added stress of completing all their responsibilities in addition to studying for exams, they feel more unmotivated to do their work. Their lack of motivation doesn’t help with their habits of procrastinating making them more stressed during midterms, because they have less time to stay on top of their responsibilities. This time crunch further makes it difficult for them to remember and prioritize taking care of their physical and mental health during busy times of the school year.
Taylor needs an easier way to make time for the people they care about during their busy college life, because this will help them stay motivated and increase their mood during stressful times like midterms.
Early mockup of key screen wireframes
Many mental health apps currently have low user retention rates as these apps require frequent user input. Further, mental illness is highly stigmatized and most solutions are prescriptive rather than proactive. In attempts to reduce this stigma, we opted to use the terminology “mental wellbeing" over "mental illness" to elevate how people see mental health, rather than primarily associating the term with mental illness.
Given that our interviews showed more people are interested in making more time for their friends and that regular face-to-face interaction reduces the risk of depression by 50% (Oregon Health & Science University 2014), we decided the primary feature of Mindbrush would be an automatic scheduler that prompts friends when they have mutual availability in their schedules and then asks if they would like the app to send an invitation to meet in person. This takes away the frustration and time consuming aspect of scheduling meetings with friends by doing it for the user and allows them to have more mental energy to stay on top of other responsibilities.