“Weather Report” for Mental Health Monitoring
2019 – Present
As part of the South West Creative Technology Network Automation Fellowship (link) we have been researching mental health mapping, mood monitoring and the use of automation to assist with reflection.
This research led to the development of a prototype web based app (link) co-designed with a group of men aged 35-55 from Second Step’s Hope Project (link).
The aim of the app is to help people communicate their mood through weather and notice patterns to disrupt unhealthy behaviour. Through targeted self-care questions and exercises users see the impact of caring for themselves through a developing lilypad and river environment.
Weather is an accessible way to talk about feelings. We all have some idea what people mean when someone “storms out” you don’t need to say they felt angry. Words help us communicate how we feel but sometimes that level of abstraction helps separate us from our feelings so that we can move through difficult times.
Scoping: January – March
- First workshop introducing the weather metaphor
- Second workshop creating a brief for the tool
- Covid-19 timeline adjustment
- First research probe sent to men and team to explore the basics of monitoring mood in a visual way
Refining: April – June
- Feedback on first research probe
- Independent research by project team
- Developed into second research probes to explore monitoring daily mood and some exercises inspired by WRAP plans
- Feedback on second research probe
Building: July – September
- Developed into Lilypad idea based on this feedback and the original brief
- Team focus on various elements of tool: emotions, pathways, report, technical database etc.
- User journey and wireframes finalised
- Build begins
- Illustrator contracted
Testing: October – December
- SWCTN Showcase
- Testing with 29 new users
- Feedback survey on various elements of the tool
- Team reflections of process
- Gather quotes for next stage of development
We made paper prototypes to explore our initial ideas in more depth with the men.
The first explored basic elements of: day, time and place with a free space to represent mood. Lot’s of people added text and some came up with very clear visual styles to represent emotions.
The second took this open probe and introduced a character as specified in a brief designed by the men. We chose two characters: a leaf travelling down a river and an acorn growing into a tree. The idea was that men found it easier to care about something other than themselves.
In this second probe the weather was monitoring their daily mood and the characters introduced more exercises to support resilience (eg, adding roots/contacts, reflective questions etc.)
Lily Pad Metaphor
This combined elements of both of the prototypes that worked – the consistency of floating down a river with the optimism or potential rewards of caring for a plant.
The key difference with Weather Report is that it gives people tailored support based on what weather and emotions they input. As someone who’s suicidal needs very different responses that someone who’s manic (for example).
We also signpost to emergency support when people are in a difficult place as an app cannot solve everything.
South West Creative Technology Network