StAMINA Youth Mental Health Ideathon

StAMINA Youth Mental Health Ideathon




In spring 2018, I was retained by StAMINA, a student-driven youth mental health advocacy organization, to design and execute the follow-up to the qualitative research study they had recently completed. Funded by the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative and conducted in partnership with the University of Louisville, StAMINA’s field research analyzed the state of Kentucky youth mental health through the lenses of contributing factors to stigma, barriers to resources, and student/parent preferences.

StAMINA knew they wanted to translate the needs identified in the report into advocacy, but they weren’t quite sure what to prioritize first or how to continue to grounding the solution phase of their work in user-driven values.

I led team brainstorming and discussion sessions about different ideas for research follow-up that centered the importance of community input while still providing an actionable path forward. Ultimately, this led us to the concept of the StAMINA Youth Mental Health Ideathon, an event uniting diverse stakeholders to develop ideas for relevant products and/or programs addressing a specific mental health challenge faced by Kentucky youth. Teams used principles of human-centered design to frame their creative problem solving process.

To maximize the number of community voices who could participate in the event, the StAMINA team and I worked to build accessible resources around empathy-building and background research. Participants were provided before the event with a copy of StAMINA’s research, basic reading about design thinking, and a primer on the specific design challenge we’d chosen for our event: How might we educate and empower families to prioritize youth mental health?

Our nearly 50 team members spent the morning of the event listening to presentations we designed to give participants deeper context about both the need area and design thinking methodology: a keynote by Kentucky state Rep. Attica Scott, a rigorous analysis of the mental health report by the research team, and a deep-dive into ideation and prototyping (the core design thinking skills we focused on during the Ideathon) by me.

To encourage design novices to contemplate the challenge along unconventional axes, I also developed and presented about a pedagogical tool I termed the “lenses”—different approaches to the design challenge to simultaneously promote innovative thinking and clarity about one’s intended user.

After presentations, teams spent time sharing out on discussion questions we designed to promote innovative thinking and reflection on how the needs identified in StAMINA’s research intersected with their own experiences as stakeholders in the youth mental health space. We constructed each group to represent a varied range of backgrounds: students, parents, educators, mental health professionals, and advocates. Each team then moved into a heads-down, individual prototyping session, followed by a period of group sharing, “downloading,” and ultimate convergence on one idea to prototype.


Teams work to share the ideas they developed individually, “download” them into topic categories, and select one concept to prototype.


After lunch, teams moved into a prototyping and pitch development session. At the end of the day, each of our seven teams spent six minutes pitching their solutions and fielding audience questions. Pitches were assessed via community feedback, and Ideathon participants collectively selected their three favorites.

All seven pitches—along with every idea generated and captured during the brainstorming phase—are currently under review by StAMINA and the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative to see what idea or integration of ideas makes sense to pursue given the people, funding, and time resources available. Every Ideathon participant will have the opportunity to join the implementation leadership team if they choose.