Addressing Problem-solving Skills Development for Adolescents

Project Brief

Quicksand studio collaborated on an adolescent mental health intervention development project (a visual storytelling series of comics) with Sangath, an NGO working in the field of public health and mental health since 1996.  Sangath's five-year research program, PRIDE, seeks to develop psychosocial interventions for school-going adolescents aged 11-19 years with common mental health problems in India.

The project undertook the revision of an existing text workbook, that was found to be tedious and difficult to complete by adolescents in New Delhi and Goa. The workbook was in use by Sangath counsellors as an adjunct in a psychological intervention. The intervention, still in the research stage and yet to be formally evaluated, seeks to inculcate skills of problem solving using a step-by-step approach, through weekly sessions with a counsellor. These problem-solving skills are taught as a means to build adolescent self-efficacy and coping skills for stressful situations and feelings, thereby improving mental health.

The method of narrative storytelling through a comic format was used to increase a feeling of ownership so instrumental to the problem-solving skill, and to encourage its practice in daily life. The series of comics developed are part of the intervention which will be evaluated in a randomised controlled trial later in 2018.

The narrative and script was detailed out in close partnership with clinical psychologists who work with adolescents.  Storyboards containing the characters and scenes were then passed on to the artist who illustrated the scenes. Our graphic designer worked on designing the worksheet pages to be adolescent friendly, and compiling all the components. Once the comic workbooks were ready, they were tested with adolescents for a round of feedback. The comic workbook was then revised to factor in adolescent's feedback, and will now move into larger pilot sessions in New Delhi and Goa.

The comic narrative content was split into three parts, designed to coincide with the learning goals for each counsellor led session. As it is part of a workbook, the entire publication has spaces for the adolescent input; to write their own names and answers specific to the workbook exercises, at the end of each comic episode. The comic workbooks are currently in English and Hindi languages.

The revised and refreshed workbook features an engaging comic narrative, through which adolescents can learn problem-solving and other techniques including time management, stress management and effective communication. Sangath will formally evaluate the intervention to understand the effectiveness of the workbooks in inculcating the skill and practice problem-solving in adolescents, eventually decreasing the severity of mental health related problems. The workbook has the potential to be translated for diverse locations around India, with minimal counsellor guidance.

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