Signage directing people to mental health resources
Inclusion

A Helping Hand

Client
Massachusetts Dept. of Mental Health
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Massachusetts puts families at the heart of mental health.

The world and its woes are putting incredible pressure on families, including our kids. Children’s mental health is being tested in ways we could never have expected. While many parents and caregivers are worried, they aren’t sure where to turn for information or help. IDEO partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the Office of the Child Advocate, and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to create HandholdMA.org, a family-friendly digital resource designed for parents of school-age children. Parenting when all is well is hard enough. When it’s not, everyone can use a helping hand.

Progress

87,000 site visits

to HandholdMA.org since launch

223,000 people reached

in bilingual social media campaign
Flyer to direct people to mental health resources
Teens in a school hallway

In 2020, a coalition of the nation’s leading experts in pediatric health issued an urgent warning that the mental health crisis among children had become a national emergency.

The percentage of emergency department visits for mental health crises rose by 24% for children between the ages of 5 and 11, and 31% for those 12 to 17, compared with 2019.

The urgency of attending to our children’s mental health cannot be overstated.

Concern about their well-being was already on the rise in the decade prior to the pandemic. Alongside social inequity, the COVID era has seen soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts. Knowing that mental health is influenced by numerous systemic factors, we met with families of all income levels and heard from practitioners throughout Massachusetts. In some communities, mental health is candidly discussed, in others it remains a taboo subject. Through these conversations, we learned that mental health requires both individuals and their families to be educated, supported, and empowered.

HandholdMA.org helps families find services that work for them and gives them easy access to information on a range of mental health topics. It allows parents to learn from and support one another as they navigate the landscape of mental health together. We took special care to make resources feel approachable for those in communities of color, and curated new resources for everyone from preschoolers to teens—because mental health challenges do not discriminate.

Illustrations of people
“We wanted to remove some of the guesswork and help families learn if they should worry, what they can do, and who can help.”
Kelly English

Kelly English

Director, Children's Behavioral Health Knowledge Center, Massachusetts Dept. of Mental Health

Including everyoneBus station kiosk sign directing people to mental health resources
Laptop screenshot with information on mental health resources

Thank you

Special thanks to experts Kelly Thibodeau, Nandini Talwar, Manny Hernandez, Nadia Ward, Sharrone Taitt, Jessica Bedney, Victor Turner, and all the parents and caregivers who shared their stories and co-created with us along the way.

Portraits by Juan Astasio Soriano.

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