Aware Defeat Depression

Aware Defeat Depression

5 Digital Steps to Mental Wellbeing

AWARE Defeat Depression is the only charity in Northern Ireland working exclusively for people with depression and bipolar disorder. A Derry born charity it now has two offices; one in Londonderry and a second office in Belfast, where their helpline is based. In 2014/ 2015 AWARE worked with 20,000 people.

AWARE delivers educational and support programmes throughout Northern Ireland.  These include: An established network of 24 support groups in both rural and urban areas across Northern Ireland, which are run by trained volunteers. These groups’ welcome and support those suffering from bipolar disorder, depression and their carers and are attended by more than 1700 people annually.

Another strand of programming that is delivered by AWARE is a range of Mental health and wellbeing programmes for community groups, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces. These programmes include a suite of Mood Matters programmes, Living Life to the Full, Mental Health First Aid and Mindfulness.

As a charitable organisation fundraising is an important foundation to the work of AWARE, and alongside organizing fundraising events, AWARE raises funds through delivery of its educational offer to community groups, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces.

AWARE prides itself in being shaped by people who have experience of depression and bipolar, with many board members and volunteers being former service users themselves and as such are an excellent asset to AWARE helping the charity to keep informed and stay in touch with people’s needs. With 82 volunteers, volunteers are very much at the heart of AWARE and the work that it does.

For The Techies in Residence Programme AWARE worked with David Shawe, Director of Invisible Building, a design led web designer company.

The Challenge

Mood Matters is a programme delivered by AWARE aimed at 14-18 year olds to give them knowledge and skills which they can use to maintain good mental health and build resilience in order to better deal with problems and challenges. It is delivered in a 1.5 hour classroom course. Whilst this has been successful, how can AWARE use this material in order to reach a larger audience, by taking this activity outside the classroom?

The existing offline Mood Matters programme is very successful, and as such the challenge is to expand the reach and impact of this successful model with a digital solution.

The current Mood Matters classroom course features a workbook, which could be translated into a digital interface for use during the course, or independently after the course. A key consideration when developing a digital solution to this challenge is recognising that the Mood Matters programme is a key financial asset to AWARE who use income from the delivery of this programme to support work with its service users. As such the challenge is about adding value to AWARE whilst increasing impact and reach of their work. Placing their existing model into an app simply wouldn’t work – instead a business model needs to be developed alongside a digital product.

The Process

AWARE attended an initial bootcamp at CultureTECH and found that meeting a variety of techies and gaining a range of perspectives was a useful way to develop their initial ask, and also to find a techie that they could work well with. ‘One of the most productive aspects of the programme was the bootcamp. The input from various techies, from a range of background and fields, was invaluable in progressing AWARE’s original idea to something more tangible, achievable and useful.’

After the initial bootcamp workshop AWARE decided to work with David Shawe, from Invisible Building. It was agreed that due to limited office space at AWARE, David would work remotely and that the project would be developed by email and in person meetings as and when needed. In hindsight, David reflects that being based in AWARE’s office may have been a more constructive working environment and allowed for clearer communication between the two. Another reason David feels that it would be helpful to have been based in house, is that it would have helped AWARE to focus on the project, as at the time of participating in Techies in Residence, AWARE was extremely busy, as such Techies in Residence became less of a priority than other projects and deadlines. ‘However I think the best scenario would be all 6 techies being housed in one building. With a project manager dealing directly with the organisation’  David Shawe

Despite some minor issues around priorities and communication both the Technical Partner and VCSE found The Techies in Residence process and outputs to be extremely valuable.

AWARE and David came together to research current mental health related digital products and services and mapped the growing trend for digital mindfulness tools. This market analysis was key to developing a digital solution that sat within a sound business model that would either mirror or expand upon the business model for the Mood Matters programme. Taking inspiration from social platforms like Whisper and incorporating AWARE’s Do One Thing (DOT) campaign, the concept of a digital mood board was created.

In the initial stages of development the emphasis was on the creation of a mood board, however as the digital prototype developed as shift in narrative happened. With AWARE keen to use a similar visual approach but with a different narrative – that of taking practical steps towards positive mental health, as such the mood board, became Take 5 Steps for Your Mental Wellbeing. The visual nature of the 5 steps WebApp is designed to appeal to young, digitally minded participants who take the Mind Matters Course in school. The interactive 5 steps WebApp allows young people to choose images to share how they feel with friends, and also allows users to select images as a means to develop a resilience or coping dashboard with users being encouraged to create a mood board with images of activities they can do to make themselves feel good. The images create a scrollable wall of images, with the most recent at the top.

The interactive mood board is designed to add value to the existing Mood Matters course and will be introduced at the end of the taught session. Creative young peoples desire to create and share digital content are key characteristics of this digital tool. Pupils will be able to choose from a bank of images and fonts to design their own slide, or they can upload their own image.

Discussion around if the tool should facilitate social networking between users was discussed at length. One of the key considerations was how such a network would be moderated and the added work involved in such moderation. During the development process AWARE and David explored the opportunities and challenges of allowing young people to create, and publish content and comments about mental health and the work processes necessary to manage this communication.

It was decided that social sharing would be embedded within the app i.e. allowing users to share with their existing social networks, and dialogue between user groups could also take place on this app itself.  The debate around the need for moderation pre and post publication was a challenging one, but one that allowed AWARE to develop their internal knowledge on the realities of working with young people via digital platforms. Ultimately it was decided that users would be allowed to post content live without pre moderation.

Thinking about their duty of care to users, AWARE felt that the app needed to have a request support feature, for anyone thinking of harming themselves.

The dialogue between best practice and technical possibilities demonstrate the value of Techies in Residence, by working through a development process, VCSE and Techies are able to come up with real world solutions to issues facing individual VCSE organisations.


‘ Techies in residence is an excellent project and has provided AWARE with a highly user-friendly and potentially marketable tool for young people to engage with beyond the classroom. The project has allowed AWARE to explore technology in a way that is beyond our own capabilities. The WebApp has the potential to be used across AWARE’s range of services and to be further developed in the future’.

The outcome for this Techies in Residence project was a web based app, which is a fully functioning prototype that is now ready for user testing. The app has been designed for teenagers, however it could also be re-skinned for other target audiences for example universities and workplaces. The app is a functioning prototype, and has room for refinement and development. For example there is scope for advertising, the ability to gather meaningful data and promoting well-being within the app.

Key Learnings

  • The energy at the initial bootcamp created a real buzz, and it was clearly helpful for both techies and VCSE partners to have peers to bounce ideas off, as such it would be helpful to have more opportunities for peer critique and support. Both AWARE and David Shawe felt that having all the techies in one office, with a project manager acting as an intermediary between VCSE partners would be productive format going forward.
  • Having a project manager to act as a mediator between the VCSE and Techie could help push both parties to commit to the project and project manage the digital product.
  • It’s important that both parties commit to the development process, outlining a time commitment in the application stage would help both parties know what is expected in advance. In this project, and others in The Techies in Residence project it was felt that Techies committed more time to the project than the VCSE partner, when in reality both need to commit time equally.
  • ‘Personally the best part of the experience was during the Design Thinking day at CultureTech, During this day, we had all the Techies in one room working with all the organisations in one room. I think this collaborative experience is where magic can happen and I think we had all the Techies working together better. Things would move faster and everyone would benefit overall’ David Shawe

Further Information

Invisible Building




Posted on

May 2, 2018

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