Case Study

Elliewood Fellowship

An 8-month long research study into the college mental health care space.

The Elliewood Fellowship was a one-year program that gave top UVA graduates a viable path to start ventures in Charlottesville and contribute to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Role
Entreprenurial Project
Project Lead
Team
Daniel Autry
(Solo)
Duration
Feb 2018
(11 mo. total)

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Overview

The Elliewood Fellowship is a one-year program that gave me a viable path to start a social venture.

Charlottesville needed skilled graduates to work on big problems. Yet cultural and financial barriers discouraged students from taking the non-traditional path.

The Fellowship enabled this non-traditional path. It gave top UVA graduates a support structure to pursue an entrepreneurial career right in Charlottesville.

I chose to focus my venture around college mental health. Inspired by my own battle with mental illness, this was a space I felt held a lot of potential for change.

Learn more
Problem

College mental health clinics are severely outmatched.

All too often, college mental health clinics do not have the resources to adequately help the students in need of mental health aid.

I embarked on a research journey to get a detailed view of how college mental health clinics behave, so that I could build the appropiate solution.

College students outnumber therapists 1737 : 1 on most campuses. The recommended ratio is 1000:1.

Center for College Mental Health Penn State, 2015.

61% of college students seeking help claim they felt overwhelming anxiety.

National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2016.

15% of students seeking help "seriously considered suicide".

Center for College Mental Health Penn State, 2015.

Hypothesis

More efficient college clinics  =  more free time with students.

Most clinics waitlists span weeks, with some becoming a couple months long. I knew mental health clinics were often understaffed and underfunded.

I hypothesized that if I could take time off of the clinics' hands by adding in better technology, they could devote more time to students.

College Student User Flow

In order for a college student to use a mental health solution, they must embark on the following path:

Understand thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Discover

Be motivated to change it.

Learn

Look for potential solutions.

Search

Find a product.

Use

Build trust with the product, turning it into a habit.

Goal

Customer Discovery

Next, I performed a series of behaviorial and customer discovery intrerviews.

I wanted to understand how exactly college clinics worked, and find if and to what scale did the problem exist.

I wrote a list of all of the players in the college mental health space, and who likely had the most effect on a students' mental health.

The user roles are listed below.

Students

Family

Friends

RA's

Therapists

Psychologists

Clinic Directors

Professors & Deans

Total Interviews

35

therapists at different universities.

8

different college clinic directors.

52

students at the University of Virginia.

7

resident dorm advisors.

4

psychologists in behaviorial research.

College Profile

Duke University

Duke was one of the first clinics I interviewed, and they faced problems found across most college campuses - high demand for therapy, low supply of counselors, and long waitlists.

Duke feels the best source of aid comes from group therapy. They found in one study that 69% of students turn to peers in times of need, so they hoped to leverage this.

College Profile

Penn State University

Penn State is one of the main thought leaders in college clinic therapy. Here, I talked to Ben Locke, the Director of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health.

Ben gave me a national insight into the state of college mental health. He told me that making clincis more efficient would not be the most help.

He informed me that clinics have a capacity problem - i.e. they can't meet the demand for students. He said the best way to reduce college clinic overload is to invest heavily in primary prevention.

College Profile

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Austin's clinic faced similar problems to the others I interviewed (high demand, low supply, very long waitlists).

Here, each student talks to a triage counselor first, who determines if therapy is truly the best option. UTAustin invests a lot in prevention, and facilitates programs such as adopting a growth mindset or learning how to meditate effectively.

College Profile

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia is another thought leader in college mental health. Being the clinic I went to in times of trouble, I was curious to see what their insight was.

Like the other colleges, they informed me that colleges were in need of primary prevention - a way to catch students' problems before they begin to arise.

Key Insights

There is a clear need for primary prevention.

Students have trouble identifying stress factors that can spiral into illness.

Most clinics desire to spend more time in student outreach.

Making clinics more efficient would not have the most impact. Not now, at least.

"College clinics don't have an efficiency problem, but a capacity problem."
-Ben Locke, Director for the Center of Collegiate Mental Health
"Students often will come in because they are stressed about school, and while their problems are important, they don't have a diagnosable illness. In reality, better study habits may help them even more than a therapist would"
-Jerrod Koon, Psychologist at James Madison University
"The solution may not actually be an app. Whatever it is, it must be where the students live"
-Ben Locke, Director for the Center of Collegiate Mental Health
"Students need a primary prevention solution - something that catches the problem before it arises."
-Peter LeViness, Director of University of Richmond Clinic
Return to Journey Map

After my user research with clinics, students, and staff, I discovered my hypothesis needed adjustment. While making clinics more efficient would help with amount of time spent, investing in primary prevention would have the most impact.

From here, I wanted to pick a single spot on my journey map to pursue.

Understand problematic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Be motivated to change it.

Look for potential solutions.

Find a solution.

Build trust with solution, turning it into a habit.

Revised problem statement

How might we motivate college students to manage and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression?

I revised my hypothesis and theorized that this would have the greatest impact on college mental health. What colleges need is a solution that will catch the problem before it arises, so clinics can devote resources to students that have more urgent matters, such as suicide or psychological disorders.

Ideation

There were many things that a solution could have, but I decided these were the most pressing.

The solution must be where the student lives.

It may not be in the form of an app.

Messaging and campaigns seems like a very promising approach.

Students must be able to trust the solution.

Outcome

Afterwards, I prototyped a series of solutions to combat mental illness.

Over the next couple of months, I performed a series of initiatives to test my hypothesis. Two of my initiatives are shown below, with case studies for each coming soon.

If you'd like to learn more about my research, contact me or learn how I'm using this research to help a local startup implement telemental health solutions.

Jumpbox Wellness

A personalized wellness box to promote mental healthcare in men.

Case study coming soon

Recharge Wellness Studio

A series of wellness initiatives for enhancing the state of mind - a gym for your brain.

Case study coming soon
Next: Mindbrush
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