Probing Characteristics of Visuals in Mental Health Outreach



Depression is currently one of the most prevalent causes of mortality and morbidity which occurs in all genders, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds.1,2 Additionally, depression is a multifaceted disorder with diverse causes, and consensus about its pathogenic mechanism is limited. The challenge, then, is developing an appropriate tool that can communicate what current biological attributions are known and then prepare them for inclusion in mental health outreach. Current visual communication research suggest inclusion of animated characters to offer social contact and testimonials3, as well as kinetic typography, due to its effect in minimizing literacy barriers and communicating emotion.4

This study sought to demonstrate key characteristics of successful mental health outreach (MHO) educational programs through an audio-visual tool addressing biogenic etiology of depression.

Candidate characteristics were identified based on review of MHO literature, evaluated through informal feedback sessions and unleased following committee and content expert review.

Key characteristics indicative of successful visuals in MHO included emphasizing malleability of biology, familiar characters, and minimizing literacy barriers. Tools created for MHO should include these key characteristics.

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This Vesalius Trust research poster was presented at the 2017
Association of Medical Illustrators' Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas


1. Jeon, S. W., & Kim, Y. K . (2016). Molecular neurobiology and promising new treatment in depression. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 17(3), 10.3390/ijms17030381. doi:10.3390/ijms17030381

2. Keller, M. B., Hirschfeld, R. M., Demyttenaere, K., & Baldwin, D. S. (2002). Optimizing outcomes in depression: Focus on antidepressant compliance. International Clinical Psychopharmacology, 17(6), 265-271.

3. Lu, C., Winkelman, M., & Shucheng Wong, S. (2016). Tablet-based education to reduce depression-related stigma. Health Education Journal, 75(1), 84-93.

4. Malik, S., Aitken, J., & Waalen, J. K . (2009). Communicating emotion with animated text. Visual Communication, 8(4), 469-479.

5. McDonnell, R., Breidt, M., & Bulthoff, H. (2012). Render me real? investigating the effect of render style on the perception of animated virtual humans. ACM Transactions on Graphics, 31(4), Article 91.

6. Zikmund-Fisher, B. J., Witteman, H. O., Dickson, M., Fuhrel-Forbis, A., Kahn, V. C., Exe, N. L., et al. (2014). Blocks, ovals, or people? Icon type affects risk perceptions and recall of pictographs. Medical Decision Making: An International Journal of the Society for Medical Decision Making, 34(4), 443-453. doi:10.1177/0272989X13511706


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