reframing mental health

designing for mental health in the 21th century


In this ongoing design project we explore a new narrative around mental health, one that looks beyond illness to wellness and creates a broader story about resillience and a relationship based approach. In June 2016 we completed the first phase: a new vision on mental health for the year 2030.

The Dutch mental health care system yearly serves almost a million citizens. Increased employment rates and improved levels of happiness of the Dutch population repay the investment in the system. Still, many improvements could be made. The mental health care system has a long history and evolved into a complex system. It is currently facing economic and demographic challenges, while its basic paradigms on diagnostics (e.g. DSM5) and treatment (e.g. too much focus on symptom reduction) are debated. Our society, in which the system operates, is changing rapidly and many mental health care organizations struggle to survive.

The situation we are facing also brings opportunities. There is a felt sense that we can improve our mental health care system and a sense of urgency among organizations to ensure their meaningfulness in the future. The new technologies and media that are transforming our social environment also offer new possibilities for smarter care solutions. Yet so far, innovations in e-health hardly ever move beyond translations of existing practices to digital applications. It is difficult for mental health care experts to look beyond the current characteristics and boundaries of the system. Moreover, a shared vision for the future is lacking.

With Redesigning Psychiatry we are developing such a vision for 2030, in collaboration with a consortium of innovative mental health care organizations, by using the reframing method. In this project we combine systems theory, desktop and interview research, stakeholder collaboration, ethical reflection, and the testing of new solutions through prototypes. Central in the design process will be the desired interaction between the distressed individual and the future mental health care system. This demands answering elementary questions such as how we as a society want to treat people who are not able to cope with the emotional, social or physical challenges that life throws at them.

In the first phase (2015-2016) we developed a shared vision on the future system and it’s core characteristics, which will serve as a dot on the horizon. In the past year (2016-2017), this vision was concretized: how should people experience this system? How should both caretaker and provider act? And how should they interact? Right now we are working on the first steps to effectuate the desired change. Additionally, symposia and workshops are organized to involve all stakeholders.

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Public design
Project kick-off: 
October 2015
Project delivered: 
January 2020
Service Design
Framework Development
Project size: 
Project developers: 
Beatrijs Voorneman
Erik Kieskamp
Femke de Boer
Lotte Jacobse
Matthijs van Dijk
Social innovation
Governance and politics
Health and science
Design research
Policy design
© Reframing Studio