MARTIN THE MONKEY

Coughs and colds are easy to talk about. Try talking about mental health. And with kids.

My partner and I wrote a storybook and accompanying activity to introduce the subject of mental health to students in grades 1 - 3. The form of a storybook using animals and a simple activity makes the introduction of a foreign subject a comfortable and familiar experience for students. 

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Goal:

Introduce the subject of mental health conditions and create discussion among young students and family. 

Role and Skills:

I was the UX/UI designer and researcher.  I interviewed teachers from different grade levels and used systems thinking to write a relevant story and activity.  

Partner:

Grace Dai, Designer and Illustrator  

Deliverable:

Martin the Monkey is a children's storybook with an accompanying activity designed to introduce the subject of mental health to students, prompting discussion and thought.

BRAINSTORMING

We brainstormed through ecosystem maps, concept models, stock and flow diagrams, and experience maps.

INTERVIEWS

I recruited educators, teaching at different grade levels, as well as a college student who has lived with ADHD and dyslexia since she was a child.

 

We gained insight about how both parties, individuals with and without mental conditions, interact with one another concerning mental conditions and mental health general.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS for TEACHERS

  • Have you been trained to detect and deal with mental health conditions for your students?

    • What type/how long/how frequently?

    • How do you feel about your training? Are you satisfied?

    • Can you give us an example of when you applied your knowledge? What happened? Were they able to receive the help they needed?

  • How do the students diagnosed with mental health conditions…

    • Interact with others?

    • Perform in class?

  • How would ADHD/dyslexia affect students?

  • If someone were being bullied for mental health condition, what would you suggest to prevent it in a foundational way?

INTERVIEWEES

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Kacey B.

Professor, California College of the Arts

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“Over the last 25 years of teaching, I had a total of 6 - 8 hours of formal [mental health] instruction.”

Laurie W.

High School Teacher, Silver Creek High School

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“There is no periodic training - usually it’s CPR training every 2 years.”

Mary P.

Elementary School Teacher, Silver Oak Elementary School

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“I felt like I was going to be viewed as stupid, I felt really embarrassed.”

Victoria B.

College Student, California College of the Arts

INSIGHTS AND ISSUES

  • minimal training/review for teachers 

  • lack of personnel and staff to help students

  • stigmatization of mental health issues​

FINALIZED MAPS AND DIAGRAMS

After finalizing maps and diagrams of the system, we brainstormed a story and activity to introduce mental health to young students. 

PLANNING AND PROTOTYPING

I discussed the story with my design partner and sketched a draft.  I designed the layout of the take-home activity and accompanying information for parents.

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FINAL PRODUCT

The final storybook uses colorful images, drawn by Grace, and easy to understand language to create an engaging lesson in the classroom.

The students have a short take-home activity drawing and writing about what they learned. Parents are supplied with a summary of the story and information about the mental health condition on the back of the activity sheet. We also created a quick info review card about the mental health condition for teachers to refer to.

FINAL TAKEAWAYS AND NEXT STEPS

After completing this project, I learned that there is much work to be done as far as education and discussion of mental health are concerned. I want to learn how else mental health education can be communicated.

I reached out to several schools for their opinions as well as the prospect to use the book in their classrooms. The book received positive feedback and interest from teachers. There is realistic possibility it will be implemented in lower grade classrooms.