Design for Youth's Flourishing

Intervention design strategies to enhance teenagers’ mental resilience and well-being

More Info


The urge to promote mental health and well-being is gaining increasing importance and attention in recent years. Adolescents, who are among the most vulnerable under this aspect, are experiencing an increase in mental health complaints and need of youth care in the Netherlands. In addition, they perceive current means of care as inappropriate to their needs. Generally, mental healthcare remains hard to access due to its elevated costs and lack of resources. Alternative ways to promote mental well-being appear necessary. These could be provided by implementing design to mediate and promote positive activities through human-product interactions. Teenagers make heavy use of smartphones with continuous internet connection; this creates the possibility to take advantage of digital phenotyping, the practice of gaining information on users’ (mental) state by collecting and interpreting data from smartphones’ sensors and interactions. This system would allow to detect when teenagers experience risk states and provide proper (design) interventions.

This project aimed at providing designers with strategies to create interventions promoting teenagers’ mental resilience and well-being through product-mediated activities. The research entailed literature review, interviews with experts and adolescents, examination of tools, prototyping and user evaluation. The Vision in Product design and Contextmapping methods were employed. Academic stress and depressed mood were identified as the two most relevant detectable risk markers for teenagers. The goals of "making adolescents embrace resilience as a collaborative learning process by identifying purpose and stick to congruent behaviour" (for academic stress) and "by reframing negative emotions, translating them into learning opportunities" (for depressed mood) led to the development of 14 intervention design strategies. These are presented in a card deck, whose evaluation stressed the importance of implementation, detailing and user testing to reach intended impact, and the necessity to evaluate and prevent potential counteractive effects.

This work contributes to the field of Design for Well-being and specifically to the Smart-CUEing MEntal health research project, whose aim is to promote adolescents’ well-being by implementing digital phenotyping and design interventions.