Drawing Modes of Doing: Illustrating Stories of Everyday Mental Wellness with Young Adults

Ng, Janette Shu Ling
Reay, Stephen
Sutton, Daniel
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Master of Design
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Auckland University of Technology

Advocates for young adult mental wellbeing are needed now more than ever. Improving mental health literacy and sharing hopeful recovery narratives can lead to better health outcomes for those experiencing mental distress. As visual communicators and storytellers, illustrators are well-equipped to make a meaningful contribution to this space.

Previous research offers insight into how everyday activities can facilitate mental wellbeing for individuals in the process of recovery. This design-led research investigated how illustration could be used to make this knowledge more accessible and engaging for young adults within a healthcare setting. Specific focus was given to illustrating recovery-focused lived experience stories of mental wellbeing.

This study adopted a participatory action research and co-creative approach. Designers for health information, young adults with lived experience of using mental health services, and mental health clinicians were invited to take part in this research and inform a strengths-based inquiry.

A collection of illustrated lived experience stories and creative prompts were used to support young adult participants to visualise their own definitions and stories of everyday mental wellness. This creative exploration was used to inform the development of an illustrated ‘guidebook’ (resource) designed to help young adults navigating mental wellbeing challenges.

From a design perspective, this study provides insight into how creative methods can be used to facilitate co-creative projects with young adults within a New Zealand healthcare context. In addition, the final design output proposes that illustration and drawing-based activities have the potential to complement traditional therapeutic approaches within mental health services.

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