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Title: Designing technology to promote mental health and wellbeing
Author: Thieme, Anja
ISNI:       0000 0004 5915 1452
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2015
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Mental health and wellbeing are fundamental to our quality of life, enabling us to be resilient against everyday stresses, work productively, to have fulfilling relationships, and experience life as meaningful. While HCI research has recently begun to address important challenges in the treatment of mental illness, approaches to promote and protect mental wellbeing, as positive emotional, psychological and social health, have received far less attention. Besides, the design space for technology innovation for people with severe mental health problems and as hospital inpatients is largely under-explored. The research presented in this thesis investigates how technology can promote the mental health and wellbeing of a group of women, living in the medium secure services of a forensic hospital in the UK. These women present a difficult to treat group due to the complexity of their mental health problems, extremely challenging behaviours, and a mild-tomoderate Learning Disability. Following an Experience-centred Design (ECD) approach in this context, the thesis describes how I worked collaboratively with hospital staff to gain a rich understanding of the women, their treatment regime, and constraints of their secure care; my approach to sensitively engaging this vulnerable group of women into a co-creative process to personalise their technology, and to carefully build up a relationship with them; and how the design of the technology builds upon qualities of creativity, physicality and personal significance for promoting engagement in mental health and wellbeing enhancing activities. In response to the design context I introduce the concept of the Spheres of Wellbeing, a set of three artefacts designed to collectively offer opportunities for engagements that are stimulating, enjoyable and personally meaningful; contribute to the formation of a positive sense of self; assist in tolerating emotional distress; and help familiarise the women with therapeutic concepts of mindfulness. Furthermore, in presenting the findings of a real-world deployment and evaluative study of the Spheres, this thesis contributes to current discourse in HCI on how empathy can be enabled with vulnerable populations, and provides rich insights into the complexities and challenges of conducting design-led research within hospital settings.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Microsoft Research ; RCUK Digital Economy Hub on Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy (SiDE)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available