Service Design for Mental Health

Against a background of financial cuts to services, demand is set to rise for acute and serious mental illness. Support for people experiencing mental health problems faces serious challenges. Here we outline our work with the charity, Mind

The current context of public services creates complex and challenging conditions for the provision of services and support for the most vulnerable members of our communities. Research by Ipsos Mori in 2012 identified that leaders across the public sector believed that in order to achieve the radical change necessary to meet the demand and budgetary requirements we must begin “redesigning services to meet users’ needs in a different way”. Making the case for doing more for less is becoming increasingly unrealistic.

There is a broad realisation across public services that we must do things differently, do them better, and do them at significantly lower cost. Redesigning public services around their users cannot be achieved by applying a traditional approach to the development of services, commissioning, procurement and policy-making. Instead, it requires a very different set of skills, mind-sets and behaviours.

Design and service design are becoming increasingly recognised as a viable approach to solving not just service challenges, but those of institutions and whole systems. For many years they have remained on the margins of provision, often being viewed as a ‘nice to have’ or luxury. Focus has remained on the feasibility and viability of service provision, not on their desirability.

The project involved intensive work with five local Mind organisations in Tyneside, Scarborough, Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes, Suffolk and Hillingdon. Each team defined a key challenge they were facing locally, ranging from supporting survivors of domestic violence in new ways, to new ways of promoting wellbeing in the workplace.

What did we do?

1. Co-designed a methodology which we prototyped through taking the 5 local minds through the process of setting up their project, doing user research, generating new ideas, prototyping, growing and scaling their project.

2. Learnt about the support Mind needs to do this on a bigger scale.

3. Produced a number of different documents for them to use including a methodology document, method cards and posters, whilst helping national Mind with network strategies and scaling.

4. Created a lot of energy and enthusiasm, as well as a whole new team of service designers.

The new ideas being developed by teams involved in this project are still at early stage, but for Mind it is clear that service design has an important part to play in developing the future of local mental health services if those services are to really meet the complex set of challenges ahead.