Co-Designing Technological Mental Health Resources for Unaccompanied Migrant Youths

This UX research study was conducted as part of my PhD research and a four-year Innovation Training Network (ITN) – Technology-Enabled Mental Health for Young People (TEAM) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) initiative. This training network focuses on different challenges of technology-enabled mental health services for young people. My PhD research focused on vulnerable groups among young people, particularly migrant youths who arrive in the EU unaccompanied by a responsible adult or who are left unaccompanied after their arrival.
Due to the high number of refugees arriving in Vienna in 2015, the PhD project was located in Vienna, Austria.

Promoting Psychological Resilience in Unaccompanied Migrant Youth with the Help of Mental Health Technologies

Unaccompanied migrant youths are exposed to many mental health risks (Höhne, van der Meer, Kamp-Becker, & Christiansen, 2020; Hodes, Jagdev, Chandra, & Cunni, 2008), and even after arriving in the country of destination, they experience many stresses such as continued unstable educational and living situation (Hodes & Vostanis, 2019) and discrimination (Fazel & Betancourt, 2018). Unaccompanied migrant youth could benefit from developing strong psychological resilience to adapt to this adverse situation, which, in turn, could prevent the onset of mental illnesses (Zolkoski & Bullock, 2012).

To prevent the onset of mental illness, practitioners and researchers working in this field recommend taking a social-ecological approach and integrating resilience-building interventions into the everyday life of unaccompanied migrant youth (Eruyar, Huemer, & Vostanis, 2018; Hodes & Vostanis, 2019). Research increasingly shows that technology can improve access to mental health interventions such as behavioral activation and interventions (Mohr, Burns, Schueller, Clarke, & Klinkman, 2013; Mohr et al., 2017; Rohani et al., 2019, 2020), CBT (G. Doherty et al., 2012), dialectical behavior therapy (Schroeder et al., 2018).

However, unaccompanied migrant youth still struggle in accessing appropriate mental health
resources in spite of their high need for mental health support.

Aim: Exploring Design Requirements of Technological Mental Health Resources

The following aims guide the UX research project:

  • Gaining an understanding of how social-ecological systems support and hinder unaccompanied migrant youth in using mental health apps as one form of resource
  • Exploring the design opportunities and requirements of technological resilience resources as an integrated part of unaccompanied migrant youth’s social-ecological environment

UX Research Methods

  • Co-Design Workshop
  • Thematic Analysis
  • Mind Mapping Activities
  • Ideation Methods
  • Development of A Design Framework
  • Conceptualization of Design Examples


  • MAXQDA - Software for Qualitative Analysis
  • InDesign
  • Photoshop
  • Premiere Pro