Design patterns for mental health library

Connecting the dots of mental health support in practice and research
a photograph of a person using a laptop with the Design Patterns for Mental Health library on the screen

Mental health problems exact a greater toll than tuberculosis, cancer or heart disease, and the World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the leading cause of disease burden by 2030. It’s something that the NHS and other providers have been struggling to support for a long time. And in the wake of the pandemic, the numbers of people needing help with it have soared.

As awareness around mental health issues increases, and as the healthcare landscape continues to shift, we have seen more products and services appearing that are tackling this challenge. In short: there’s a growing need, more available funding, and a greater opportunity than ever to give people the support they need.

“This is also about accountability, and having contributors sharing their work makes this trustworthy. I might be curious about something another organisation has implemented and it’s great that it shows me what they have done”

Jade Williams | YoungMinds

Taking a step back

In the world of digital, the development of mental health products has been rapid. 

From meditation apps to online therapy courses, there has been a huge amount of creation and learning in a short space of time. 

In 2017 we recognised that there was a huge potential to take a step back and review what has been learned. 

By knowing what works, what doesn’t, and where the gaps are, we can design and build better tools for the human experience.

Icons from the Design Patterns for Mental Health website used to illustrate principles and patterns

Identifying the patterns in products and services

We set out to connect the dots. We conducted desk research, spoke to the NHS, mental health charities, academics, front-line staff and designers. These insights were then transformed during a 2-day workshop in New York with Public Policy Lab. Together, we started to see elements that repeated  – we started to see the patterns.

Design patterns are things that pop up again and again. Whether signing in to a website or enabling a location service on an app, they exist to solve common problems and to make services more accessible.

As a result of working with Public Policy Lab and a global network, we produced 35 design patterns that formed the foundation of the Design Patterns for Mental Health library. The world’s first collection of patterns and principles that can be used for the development of digital mental health products.

Since launching the first prototype in 2018 we’ve influenced the work of 2 NHS healthcare providers, built relationships with 25 partners, and started a global Slack community of 250 designers, thinkers and creators who are continually evolving this collection with us.

What makes it different from bulky best practice documentation is that the library is designed to ensure it meets user needs. It’s easy to navigate based on the problem the user is trying to solve

Users can go onto the platform and access the ‘pattern library’. When a pattern is selected, a high-level description displays, alongside examples of great working practice and related research. These learnings are available to be integrated into the user’s own work, giving high-quality insights – even when bespoke funding is unavailable.


a photograph of a laptop with the Design Patterns for Mental Health library Examples page on the screen

Partnering with Barnado’s to grow in size and impact

To be really useful we needed to grow the library’s reach. We wanted to work with an organisation with real-life experience of supporting users with their mental wellbeing and continue to build a network of contributors so the library becomes an invaluable resource for anyone involved in supporting their users’ mental health.  

Partnering with Barnardo’s allowed us to combine their expertise in working with young people with our user-centred design skills. Together we secured funding from Nominet’s #RESET Programme – a fund that was set up to help national charities increase the reach and impact of their mental health services. 

Since then, we’ve been working with Barnado’s to develop the community of contributors and build the library as it is today.  We’ve been running public activities and events with charities, policymakers, researchers and designers from the U.K. and the U.S. We’ve been contacted by Global research centres for mental health, ministerial Government bodies, local authorities who are developing health and social care partnerships and some of the UK’s biggest mental health charities.

  • 2 NHS Healthcare providers influenced
  • 25 Relationships built with partners
  • 250 Members in the Slack network developing the library

The library is live – and will always be a work in progress

The library officially launches in May 2021 but, it’s designed to be a constant work in progress, shaped by its users as it grows.

Our vision is that it will be a place for people to share their research, experience and examples from practical, lived experience of delivering services.  It should grow to be a resource that’s consulted and contributed to by everyone in the field of designing and delivering mental health support with a digital component.

The library has the potential to transform lives by making health care support and services smarter, faster and more effective. Because good, accessible mental health support should be there for everybody – not just the few.

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