Today, most university often surveys its student body yearly, but surveys rarely capture the qualitative nature of emotions and provide little emotional support from being heard. How can we design an experience to allow participants to express their feelings better and capture better mental health data to inform policy?
Two workshops that physicalises the student body’s mental health and enable better mental health policy conversation. Our methods are now published as pioneering ways in how playfulness can be used visualise qualitative data. The stories from this workshop was used as a case study during the university's board meeting.
Selected workshop for Mozilla Festival Nuerodiversity Space
Published in Creative Approaches to Health Education
CMU Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS)
After two suicides in 2016, the school puts out a mandatory annual survey for student mental health. This is highly impersonal. Students often rush to finish these by ticking the middle box to finish class, and the results are at best inaccurate. People often felt that the survey were performative, and that their voices were unheard.
We translated complex questions such as "what challenges are you facing" into physical play to help people open up and be receptive to reflection. Here, play allowed people to think in a light-hearted environment and manipulate their the material at hand to better understand their inner world’s needs. The "potions" they produce also serves as reminder with concrete actionables.
Empathy Rock Garden is a space designed for people to share what is "what is weighing on their mind" through creating a participatory display. Passer-by were invited to take a rock, write a personal message on it, and place it in the garden. They were also encouraged to take and place small rocks in the garden to signal to others that they're not alone.
The first few rocks started with people writing about their struggles, but by the end of the week people were leaving encouraging messages adjacent to those who're struggling to encourage them.
Our workshop was selected from 20 to be presented to the university’s board. The findings that students wanted more “discipline” despite putting in more than 50+ hours per week troubled many. This led to a deeper investigation into each departments’ role in assignment expectation.