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Case study: Mentally Healthy Universities

Between September 2019 and August 2021, we ran a programme called Mentally Healthy Universities. The programme aimed to support mental health at universities. On this page, you can learn more about how we involved people with lived experience in this work.


Aim of the programme

During the programme, we worked with:

  • The university student body
  • The higher education workplace
  • Universities as employers 

We designed the programme to help students:

  • Understand mental health at work
  • Have the confidence to look after their mental health
  • Know where they can find support in and beyond the workplace

We partnered with 4 local Minds and 2 peer designers to develop our courses using the Mind service design toolkit.

When we first launched Mentally Healthy Universities, we gathered feedback from students who attended our courses and from university stakeholders.

Feedback was really important to us. And we wanted everything we created to be accurate, unbiased and reflect the experiences of university students.


What we learned

During the programme, we found:

  • Co-production made our work more flexible and adaptable.
  • It was more inclusive to involve people remotely. It meant that someone who might not have the time or ability to travel could get involved online and take part in opportunities. 
  • Splitting our work across 3 days worked well.
  • Sending out information and tasks ahead of workshops made them really efficient. 

We felt confident that we were making the most of our time together online. This was because we knew exactly what was going on and everyone came to sessions prepared with ideas. Our workshops were really tightly run, and we got what we needed out of them.

We now have strong knowledge of these tools. And we'd like to empower others working with us to use the tools. We'd like to increase our co-production by training others to become more involved in decision-making.

Working remotely

Once we realised that we couldn't meet up in person, we explored digital tools and ways to work creatively online. We wanted to find a tool to replace our in-person design sprint and make it better at the same time.

We decided on Mural, an interactive whiteboard. Mural allowed us to work together using lots of images and colours. It was challenging at first as it was a new tool for us, but it went really well.

We enjoyed the drawing element of the software, which used virtual post-it notes. It made our workshops really engaging and allowed everyone to work independently.

We also found it easy to run as we didn't have to take notes. And we didn't have to make sense of what each person said, because they wrote down ideas in their own words.

Involving people with lived experience

We believe in the idea of “nothing about us without us”. This means that we shouldn’t create content for a group if we aren’t part of that group.

We wanted to amplify the voices of young people with lived experience, so we shared our opportunity with:

As a result, we received lots of great applications. One of our peer designers was the chair of their university’s mental health society. Another had worked part-time at their local doctor's surgery.

Benefits for participants

Local Minds who took part in this co-production felt like they had more ownership of these courses. 

It was also a really positive experience for the peer designers, as they learnt how Mind works and how charities operate.

One student participant has begun working within the charity sector. And another, a recent postgraduate in psychology and innovation, can use this experience to:

  • Boost their employability
  • Apply the skills they gained in their future career

Support offered

We provided a main point of contact and offered continued support via email and phone. We gave the young people:

  • Inductions and training on the tools
  • Support around communications
  • In-depth knowledge about the design process.

After the workshops, we continued working with the peer designers and commissioned them to consult on our student-facing communications.

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