Ethical Design & Suicide Prevention

As part of RMIT Communication Design studio program in 2020, Un/Certain positions was designed to teach students about how to be ethical and careful designers, while creating safe learning spaces online that prioritised self-care. In partnership with the #chatsafe team at Orygen Youth Mental Health, and the design studio Portable, the studio focused on representing the lived experiences of real young people, their thoughts of suicide, and their experiences seeking help and their recovery journey. Students were tasked with creating an online and social media campaign for young people to share their experiences in a safe, helpful, and meaningful way.

The #chatsafe guidelines are the world’s first tools and tips designed to help young people communicate safely online about suicide.

We were selected to presented our work and experiences in our studio as part of Melbourne Design Week. Our panel conversation highlighted how young people, researchers, and industry can work collectively to navigate sensitive and often taboo topics, while exploring how engaging and trusting young designers in co-design practices can lead to campaigns that are inclusive, relatable, and meaningful.

Our panellists brought together the voices of leading researchers in youth suicide prevention, communication design students, design lecturers and industry professionals to share their perspectives about our collaborative experiences co-designing safe online spaces and developing design processes of care around representing mental health and suicide.

#chatsafe Design week event featuring our panellists and opened by the the Hon Greg Hunt, Minister for Health

Discussing themes of of designing for self/care and un/certainty, doing care-full design calls for new ways of thinking of the role of the design, new ways of designing and, and new inclusive co-design processes.

The event also featured an exhibition of work developed by students from RMIT involved in the #chatsafe project

One of the core learnings of the studio was for students to explore our profession’s responsibilities to audience members or users, specifically those who we represent, or will experience the work we create. And to question how do we include those that we are representing within a design process, and how can we work carefull with peoples stories and lived experiences.

Working in collaboration and being supported by #chatsafe really made this project possible, being able to know and understand my role as primarily helping the students to design a campaign in an empathetic, sensitive, and ethical way, and to also position myself as someone who was also learning about safe spaces and self-care alongside the students.

We hope the event and exhibition can encourage other educators to not be afraid to lean into these difficult conversations with students, to trust students and to enable spaces for collaborative learning. Particularly to encourage design educators to know that there are safe ways to engage in these kinds of projects, with the support and collaboration with organisation such as #chatsafe and Portable.