Frankie Middleton Spark the Conversation

  • Tauira / Student
    Frankie Middleton
  • Kaiako / Lecturer
    Antony Nevin

Everyday firefighters are taken into the chaotic unknown, with little time to pause and process. Exposed to countless traumatic scenes that dictate their ability to work and function, emergencies can be as psychologically demanding as they are physical. Due to the strong team culture, dependence on colleagues, and the image as heroes, many are unwilling to disclose when affected by traumatic events.

Throughout 2022 firefighters had been campaigning and protesting for all round better resources and pay. I saw an opportunity for design to facilitate their needs to continue protecting communities in Aotearoa. However, with limited support systems for firefighters wellbeing, a challenge I faced was introducing a resource that firefighters would feel inclined to engage with.

By using a human-centred approach, I set out to motivate firefighters to naturally utilise their downtime and build emotional resilience. Primarily in environments where they are most likely to seek relaxation such as station kitchens and seating areas. My aim; design a tool that would encourage firefighters to feel motivated to create open conversations, while engaging in the self management of their mental health.

The outcome was Spark the Conversation (STC) – A multi-touchpoint resource set to motivate firefighters to create courageous conversations by collaborating and reflecting with one another. With an opportunity to sell the value of emotional resilience, STC holds a common phrase that acts as an incentive and corresponds with collaboration and reflection. Using persuasive tonal and visual language, STC engages the user through posters, informs them through a brochure, facilitates their conversations through a box of prompt cards, and enables emotional support through an app.

With the devastating impacts Aotearoa has endured, firefighters need our support now more than ever. By introducing this resource, firefighters have an incentive to initiate conversations regarding mental wellbeing in their workplace. Spark the Conversation; a ‘human’ approach to gaining better resources for our frontline workers.