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Case study: Mentally Healthy Universities 

Project leads story

Between September 2019 to August 2021, we ran a programme called Mentally Healthy Universities. The programme aimed to support mental health at universities and involved us working with:

  • the university student body
  • the higher education workplace
  • universities as employers. 

We designed it 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.

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

What we learnt

Here are some of the things we learnt during the programme:

  • Co-production made our work more flexible and adaptable.
  • It's much more inclusive to involve people remotely. Offering remote participation means that someone who may not have the time or ability to travel can get involved online. And therefore participate in a broader range of opportunities. 
  • Splitting our work across 3 days worked well.
  • Sending out information and tasks ahead of workshops made them really efficient. 

We felt very confident that we were making the most of our time together online. This was because we knew what was going on exactly and everyone came to sessions well 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, a sophisticated 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 this visual 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 facilitate as there were no notes to complete. And we didn't have to make sense of what each person said as they wrote down their 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 particular 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 using networks at:

This resulted in us receiving 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 have more ownership of these courses. This can be vital for local Minds that deliver funded programmes.

This was a really positive experience for the peer designers as they learnt how we work 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 have 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 and in-depth knowledge about the design process. Following the workshops, we continued working with the peer designers and commissioned them to consult on our student-facing communications.

Remote Influence and Participation

How - Methods

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