A new card game has been developed in Cincinnati that encourages young gamers to discuss mental health issues in a productive and progressive manner. Hey, Let’s Talk: Mental Health Card Game was developed by regional health foundation Interact for Health and ArtWorks, a nonprofit arts-based workforce development and job-training organization.
The game was designed to help reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues among young players — primarily between the ages of 14 and 21 — through opening a dialogue that allows them to talk about personal experiences in a fun, unobtrusive manner; they can share as much as they want about their own struggles.
Its origins date back to 2015 when Interact for Health reached out to ArtWorks requesting a project that would explore how public art can be used to reduce mental health stigma.
“By using art and creativity — in this case, the Hey, Let’s Talk: Mental Health Card Game — and a youth-led community engagement process, youth from around the region are engaging in conversations with their peers about mental health in a way that breaks down barriers and is comfortable for them,” says Kelley Adcock, an evaluation and research officer at Interact for Health.
Between 2015 and 2018, Interact for Health awarded ArtWorks two grants totaling $114,600 to design, prototype and play the mental health social intervention game with youth.
ArtWorks’ managing director of programming Marie Krulewitch-Browne and program manager Megan Rahill spent a year researching and traveling to cities including San Francisco and New York City. There, they connected with nonprofit and mental health organizations like Bring Change to Mind, Groundswell and More Art.
“Taking all of the insights learned, we designed an artist-driven project and accepted proposals from local and national artists,” Rahill says.
Enter Cincinnati-based artist Kate Tepe, who was chosen for the task of designing the game. The Art Institute of Chicago grad has worked on games before. Namely, the Off-Line Dating Game and Hello There! Both challenge social conventions that many often take for granted.
“The goal of the project was to reduce the stigma often associated with tough and taboo topics about mental health. And to get youth to talk more about it,” Adcock says, citing a statistic from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which states that 21.4 percent of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition. “The stigma and fear surrounding mental health issues is often a reason that many individuals do not seek help or treatment.”
But the game is hoping to pierce through that fear. Conversation prompts within the card game include: Have you ever been bullied? How did you keep your head up? What is the future of gender? Is an evolution important to you?
“We went through a rigorous independent review board process in late 2017 with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and began focus groups in spring of 2018 with a modified version of UNO and an accompanying focus group booklet to find out what youth ages 15-18 know and think about mental health and mental health stigma, and what a game to reduce it should look and feel like,” Rahill says. “Six (ArtWorks) youth apprentices (ages 14-21) facilitated these focus groups with 75 Greater Cincinnati youth through schools and community organizations.”
The team at ArtWorks took the data and then handed it over to Tepe and her team to bring Hey, Let’s Talk to fruition.
“They designed a card game that would help youth to talk to each other more openly about a range of topics, including mental health,” Rahill says. “The apprentices contributed inspiration, drawings, graphic design and card questions. Most importantly, they helped inform the game mechanics, which have helped to make the game fun, familiar and feel like a real game — which they felt was very important.”
The game was recently demoed by 250 local youth at Wave Pool gallery and community center in Camp Washington through a partnership with schools and community/arts organizations. The event was a success, with many participants praising the game for its ability to prompt vital conversations. Each participant received a free copy of the game.
Those interested in finding out how to obtain Hey, Let’s Talk: A Mental Health Card Game for young people in their family, organization or school can contact Megan Rahill at [email protected].