19 June 2019

Overcoming body image issues during recovery with Hack for Good

Every day at the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, we ask ourselves:

“How could we help young people overcome issues with their body image to reduce any anxiety they may have over attending a trip?”

Bodies change as a result of cancer. Hair loss, scars, weight gain and other physical changes can make young people self-conscious about their appearance. At a time in life when standing out from the crowd can be anxiety inducing, these physical changes can make people uncomfortable with how they look.

[caption id="attachment_13666" align="alignleft" width="360"] Hack for Good participants[/caption]

So we decided to ask Studio Republic's 2nd annual 'Hack for Good' this question too!

Hack for Good sees developers, designers and creators set a day aside to create digital solutions from scratch following briefs submitted from a number of charities.

This year’s event focused on body image and fell during Mental Health Awareness Week. What better reason for us to reach out and see how digital innovation can aid in our mission? Young people are finding comfort and expressing themselves more than ever online, and we want to be there for them as they rebuild their confidence after cancer.

Software and website designers from Team Rareloop understood our mission and spent the day brainstorming features for an app concept which would help with recovery.

Through familiarising themselves with what we do and reading case studies of young people who have been on our trips, the team came up with a concise brief, deciding to focus on how they can cater to each individual young person.

[caption id="attachment_13661" align="alignright" width="330"] Rareloop's post-it note wall of innovation[/caption]

Following a fast-paced problem-solving exercise, a wall, and more than a few post-it notes, Rareloop came up with three key principles their app would need: to engage young people earlier; to support and educate young people; and to support, educate and involve parents.

With these principles in mind, the team were able to come up with features which could help realise their vision to help young people overcome issues with their body image.

A pen pals messaging network could connect young people and parents with others who have gone through a similar experience, and a function to view user stories could promote sharing stories and videos from trips they had been on.

Access to an online journal could encourage young people to write about their feelings, something which is proven to help tackle mental health issues. Further mental health support would be available through helplines and links to resources.

Their concept included a separate parent/guardian version, designed to help educate caregivers so they are better suited to support their child.

Our trips are just one part of a young person’s recovery from cancer. Now more than ever, digital technology has the means to accompany their journey. In just one day, Rareloop came up with a fantastic initial concept, which could link young people with others, helping to ease them into our trips as well as act as a reminder that they are not alone in their recovery. Perhaps you will see an app like this in a digital store near you, one day soon!

A positive relationship with your body is integral to a person’s mental wellbeing. It is so important young people in recovery feel supported if they are worried about physical changes setting them apart.