Self-care is the act of caring for oneself and can come in many forms ranging from juice cleanses to taking a nice, hot shower at the end of a long day. There are many benefits to practicing self-care ranging from more self-confidence to a boosted immune system; however, people who are living and struggling with depression find it difficult to do so.
How might we design for a way that empowers those living with depression to practice self-care as a way of managing their symptoms.
II. SOLUTION OVERVIEW
Mementos is a digital tool-kit that empowers individuals who are experiencing depressive symptoms to use self-care as a way of managing their symptoms. Mementos specifically targets those who seek to use self-care as a way not only managing their symptoms but also preventing themselves from entering a "downward spiral."
III. KEY FEATURES
IV. THE RESEARCH
For this project, I conducted secondary research as well as primary. I was able to speak with 4 individuals who were kind enough to talk to me about their experiences. Even though we have made great leaps and bounds in the fight against the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, many people were still very reluctant to talk to me about what was and is still a very traumatic and vulnerable moment of their lives.
I eventually found my 4 interviewees by reaching out through my own personal network and because they were either friends of friends or someone I knew, there was trust that was already built in place that I was able to leverage in recruiting people.
The Current User Journey
What was interesting was that even though these 4 individuals all had very different experiences, they all shared some commonalities and one of those commonalities was this "depressive cycle." Both the in-person interviews and online accounts from my secondary research report feeling a physical exhaustion that made it difficult to even get out of bed.
This then fed into a lack of motivation as the individual wanted to get things done but couldn't because they just felt so tired and this gave rise to feelings of anxiety, guilt, and overall hopelessness which then fed back into the exhaustion which then fed into the lack of motivation. It then became a vicious cycle in which the individual continues to spiral downward.
Breakthrough Factors that Contribute to Emotional Wellness
What was also interesting was when I asked, "what slowed down this spiral, what made a bad day better"--it turns out it was the small things in life. It was things like indulging in a favorite snack, doing something as mundane as window shopping, or practicing basic hygiene such as showering or shaving. One individual I spoke with routinely shaves because they have found it helpful in mangaging their depressive symptoms.
V. THE INSIGHTS
1. Physical symptoms contribute to emotional wellness.
From my primary and secondary research, it was evident that physical comforts (i.e. hot meals, soft blankets) could greatly alleviate depressive symptoms.
2. Exhaustion and lack of motivation live as two sides of the same coin
Since both exhaustion and lack of motivation feed into each other, it is important to intervene early to prevent the individual from entering a downward spiral.
3. Social support from friends and family is important but often fickle
Even though we have come a long way in the battle against the stigma of mental illness, its taboo is still very alive and well. This can create stressful situations in which the individual does not know or fear how their loved ones will react.
Deciding the Target Audience
After much consideration, I narrowed down Memento's target audience to those who are experiencing depressive symptoms and are interested in using self-care as a way of managing their symptoms. Mementos specifically targets those who are not in a deep, downward spiral but those who are stable and wishes to use self-care as a way of either preventing themselves from entering a depressive cycle or alleviate behaviors and symptoms they recognize as destructive.
VI. USABILITY TESTING
After ideating on paper, I started paper prototyping and usability testing with my target audience. In total, I was able to conduct two iterations of testing. When I first started the usability testing, I wanted to know if what I was creating was indeed useful and relevant to my users and I also wanted to know if the language I was using was sensitive and thoughtful of their needs. The valuable feedback I recieved from these testing led me to the final changes.
VII. The Onboarding Process
VIII. Reflections & Learnings
1. Embrace the Trend
When I first came into this space, I was worried about the trendiness of self-care as it is most associated with things like juice cleanses and bubble baths. I really wanted to make sure that I was really grounding my work in things that were relevant to my users.
Throughout this process, I learned to embrace the trend especially since depression is such a heavy and dark topic that is often surrounded by taboo and stigma. Self-care is the complete opposite of that; it is a light, fluffy hashtag and because it's so light and fluffy, it creates a more digestable entry point to talk about a much darker but very prevelant issue in our society,
2. Be Human
Since the two realms I was working in was very human-centric, I really tried to involve people in my process as much as I could including. Everything from how I approached my interviewees to usability testing was really rooted in this belief that I should be making things about, for, and with people.
VIIII. NEXT STEPS
1. More Research & Usability Testing
Various factors such as time and access limited the amount of research and usability testing I would liked to have accomplished. I would like to focus the research and usability testing on refining the initial mood check-ins as well finessing how would curation of activities based on emotions would work.
The other aspect I would like to focus more research and testing on would be the first-aid kit. The initial idea was to allow users to be able to personalize the first-aid kit so that it truly meets their needs but more testing and research will be needed to figure out how much customization should be allowed and how much should be given.
2. Physical Touchpoint (Subscription Box)
Part of the initial idea was to create a physical touchpoint that ties in with the digital experience. The subscription box would either contain objects related to self-care or to the app.
Since this subscription box is marketed under self-care, friends and family can also gift these subscription boxes to loved ones without pushing the boundaries of what the individual is comfortable with.