Engaging Young People as Co-Designers in Online Mental Health Communications: A Participatory Design and Knowledge Translation Approach

Presentation First Author: 
Teresa Swirski

There is growing awareness of the value of participatory research for social and health research. This presentation considers the ways in which Participatory Design (PD) can extend and deepen the integration of participatory approaches in the research, design and delivery of youth mental health interventions. An Australian case-study highlights the practical and theoretical dimensions of creating a participatory design project to inform and enhance young peoples wellbeing online. There is significant multi-sectoral interest and inquiry regarding the interrelationship between young people, technology and wellbeing. Evidence of this is the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing which was established in Australia in 2012. This presentation reports on one of the CRC project strands: Researching social communications in the promotion of young peoples safety and wellbeing. The foundation of this project is a PD approach which seeks to engage and integrate the voices of young people in the development of an online social marketing campaign. The initial campaign development is used as a case study to illustrate the PD and knowledge translation process which took place. Cyberbullying was the targeted theme with the aim of improving respect for self and others; Keep it Tame was the chosen slogan, providing a focal point for engaging youth in subsequent discussion and development. One hundred and thirty young people aged between 12-18 years were involved as co-designers, their perspectives about the positive and negative implications of their online behaviours directly informing the subsequent mental health campaign. Both the challenges and opportunities of the PD process are described, signalling the complex and reflexive ethos required of such an approach. Alongside this, the genealogy of young peoples involvement in PD is outlined, as well as suggested principles for enabling youth to be active and authentic co-designers. These guiding principles include: i) collaboration: navigating and negotiating different perspectives; ii) creativity: fostering idea generation and social imaginings; iii) context: situating the design to maintain relevance; and, iv) connectivity: integrating the design with social media. Underpinning this presentation is international literature relating to youth mental health, design, knowledge practices, social marketing, as well as key publications from the CRC (such as Participatory design of evidence-based online youth mental health promotion, intervention and treatment). It is argued that engaging young people to inform online mental health interventions via PD has great potential to foster youth wellbeing and enhance stakeholder awareness. This paper will also present some of the limitations and emerging questions relating to the integration and impact of such a knowledge translation process. Looking through the lens of a social marketing campaign of an ongoing PD project, the presentation aims to inform and inspire stakeholders who are looking for ways to actively and authentically engage young people in mental health interventions.

Conference Name: 
Presentation Date: 
November, 2013
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