Designing for Mental Health
The Designing for Mental Health Research team (DMH) aims to explore how design can positively contribute to suicide prevention and mental health awareness.
Specifically, DMH focuses on how parking garages can be redesigned to help facilitate the mental wellbeing of their inhabitants. This focal point acts as a case study in how design and its role in creating our environment can positively contribute to complex problems such as mental wellness and suicide prevention.
This research is ongoing and is conducted in partnership with The Ohio State University's Department of Design Desis Lab. It is funded by The Ohio State University Energy Grant. More information can be found here.
In 2017, a series of tragedies occurred at The Ohio State University (OSU) where students took their lives in campus parking garages. These tragedies revealed the severe gap between the mental health of OSU's population and suicide prevention resources.
Upon this realization, I presented this gap to upper-level faculty member in the Department of Design in an effort to understand how design could intervene. With their immense support we founded DMH, a multi-disciplinary student-led research team focused on understanding how experience design strategies can be used to create an environment conducive to positive mental health and wellness.
Where We Intervene
After these tragedies, OSU created a mental health task force to implement strategies in suicide prevention and create a "Culture of care." These strategies largely materialized in barriers at the top of garages and signage in buildings as pictured to the left. These interventions are seen as coercive (or direct) strategies, designs that force wanted behaviors, or deny unwanted behaviors. DMH recognizes the need for these strategies and commends OSU's work in implementing them. However, DMH argues these types of interventions do not work to elevate mental wellness or create a culture of care on campus.
DMH works to facilitate the "culture of care" component on Ohio State's campus, through motivational (or indirect) strategies. These are interventions that intrinsically motivate wanted behaviors. Our intention is to create a culture of care using motivational design strategies, starting with redesigning the parking garage experience. Through implementing motivational experience design strategies we aim to elevate the mental wellbeing of everyone who enters the parking garages, especially those who need it the most.
Our research has been ongoing since the formation of DMH in 2018. The components of our research are broken down into their respective sections below.