Digital Mental Health Support for Sexual Violence Survivors

Going Beyond Current Heuristics
Telemedicine and mobile access are often presented as ways to circumvent physical and bias-based access to health resources. This research study provided a more in-depth look into the influences of social media and technology on the ability to disclose and how they can assist in supporting the mental-health information-seeking of this population. It gives insight into what this group values in a place where they feel a sense of safety and security in disclosing and support-seeking. The study findings provide a foundational outline of design considerations to better equip survivors with the information, access, and support needed to feel comfortable disclosing and working through their mental health concerns. 

(HMW) – How Might We
I broke the qualitative findings down into five top concerns that need to consider in improving the design of spaces supporting mental health. Then I presented “How Might We”s as a way to approach the design of digital mental health support platforms.

Study Design

I utilized Qualitative Research methods, including a user demographic survey and three sets of focus groups. Considering this vulnerable population, I developed an innovative method for focus group data collection, written-only within Discord, to protect and build trust in a 4-week timeframe. Twenty-four participants were split between three focus groups and overall expressed a preference for the ease of online spaces or mobile applications over information exchanges in in-person spaces; based on qualities such as access to more therapists or medical professionals when not tied to location, the ability to be anonymous in some spaces, and having the chance to build a community of individuals with this shared experience.

3-Week Pilot Study & Follow-Up Interview
Changes Made Based on Pilot Study Feedback

  • Questions were posted throughout the week instead of all at once. 
  • Each week was assigned its own channel so that participants would not get overwhelmed or confused by previous weeks’ discussions. 
  • Initial prompts and questions were “pinned” to their respective channels; this allowed users to bookmark specific questions or information to a channel, meaning that anyone within the channel could click on the pinned icon and see the primary questions. They can then click a question and be taken to it so they can respond. 
  • Consistent email reminders were sent when questions were posted to prompt participant response when follow-up questions were asked and to remind participants when each week’s participation window closed. 

Screening & Demographic Survey in Qualtrics
Three Staggered 4-Week Written-Only Focus Groups in Slack
Survey Analysis using Excel
Qualitative Coding within Atlas.ti
Presentation of Findings & Design Recommendations