The 2019 student cohort have now been briefed

Each year, for the past 4 years, in Late Feb/early March, I brief a new set of 3rd Year Communication Design students (around 60+) on the topics for this year’s Visualising Mental Health initiative.

The Communication Design team very generously give me an hour to chat with the students.

During this hour, I have to achieve the following:

  • explain why I look so scruffy
  • introduce myself and the organisations I represent (the PHF and the APS)
  • give them a very quick introduction to the field of psychology and the challenges we face in communicating with the broader public
  • present to them the topics/briefs for this year that they will be working on
  • let them know about the opportunities that this initiative may provide them (featured on VMH website, funding to help get their idea developed further, exhibition of their projects during Mental Health Week in October)
  • field any questions they have about the topics/briefs
  • road-test any new jokes I have

I used to be fairly nervous about these presentations, but having spent a lot more time recently doing presentations, I am starting to enjoy them a lot more. I think that comes from the fact that all the projects that are in my life at the moment, are passion projects. They mean a lot to me, and it is much easier to get excited about them and communicate that to others.

Looking out at the student’s faces during the presentation, I saw that familiar mild confusion that comes when they are trying to wrap their heads around the topics we are giving them.

However I know that over the course of the next couple of months, that mild confusion will give way to clarify and creative excesses (of the good sort). These students will find a unique angle on their chosen topic and develop concepts that I simply cannot predict ahead of time. Hence my fascination with this initiative.

When I left the students today, they were about to break up into groups to select their topics. For your benefit, here are the topics they were choosing from.

Topic 1 – Emotions
Our lives are richly emotional, but sometimes we don’t take time out of our day to think more deeply about our emotions. For this topic, design teams are challenged to develop interesting and unique communication approaches to assist the general public on understanding emotions, what constitutes normal emotions and how to better manage those that they find unpleasant.

Topic 2 – Courtesy
As a society, are we getting less polite over time? Courtesy – the showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behaviour towards others – is not something we want to lose in our society. In this topic, design teams are challenged to select a common, yet challenging situation and explore the courtesy requirements for that situation and then develop a communication strategy to provide instruction on those courtesy requirements.

Topic 3 – Evidence in health
Human beings can be incredibly irrational, and in the area of health, this might be getting worse as public trust in scientists and science seems to be declining. In this topic, teams are challenged to develop a device/ communication strategy / psychological aid that helps restore people’s faith in science, gets them to notice and challenge their irrational tendencies and teaches people how to seek out good quality evidence about their health.

Topic 4 – Mental Fitness
When we want to get physically fit, we exercise regularly. But what do we do if we want to get mentally fit? In this topic, design teams are challenged to develop a device/ communication strategy / psychological aid that encourages people to add and sustain some psychologically healthy activities to their lifestyle, with the goal of improving some aspect of their mental health.

Topic 5 – Empathy
Being able to put ourselves in each other’s shoes is central to being able to form and maintain supportive relationships. For some people, and in some situations this is difficult. In this topic groups are challenged to come up with a device/ communication strategy/ psychological aid that helps teach empathy in one of two quite different scenarios: teaching people with Autism Spectrum Disorders, or amongst adults who interact a lot on social media.

I just got an email from the coordinating lecturer saying that the Courtesy and Mental Fitness topics were popular 🙂

The next steps for the students include the following:

  1. They will read the 2-4 page brief document we created for their topic.
  2. They will brainstorm their topic with their team mates (and in the process see if they can work together without punching each other out).
  3. In Week 3 (just a couple of weeks away), the students will get to meet with the participating psychologists to discuss their topics in more detail and share/ develop their initial idea. This is always an exciting morning because as one of the psychologists, I get to surround myself with some of most creative people in the industry and look for ways to educate the general public about important ideas in psychology. I’ll post soon with some pictures from the design studio.

My ongoing thanks to all those involved in the project and to the students who warmly welcomed me today.

A big thanks to Doreen who also ventured far to find me a water for my presentation. I’m a dunce when it comes to bringing my own hydration.