A Comic-based Digital Storytelling Showcase to Support Positive Mental Health Outcomes

Hilary Davis, Darren C. Fisher



Comic-based digital stories are brief but powerful illustrated digital stories. Comic-based digital storytelling has unique characteristics that provide much promise for Human Computer Interaction. Often associated with young people's entertainment, comics cover a broad range of topics, from superheros, to farming life (e.g., Footrot Flats). We have been co-creating comic-based digital stories in partnership with mental health programs in three contexts: a Victorian rural outreach program; tradespeople or 'tradies' focused mental health promotion program; and a student mental health service.

We showcase three diverse comic-based digital stories co-created with key stakeholders including service providers, community members and people with lived experience of mental health. They depict contextually situated mental health issues faced in the trades sector and in rural communities. The digital stories recognise some complexities of identifying mental health issues and help-seeking in these contexts. Comics were chosen for these digital stories due to their unique ability to resonate with young male audiences, create understanding, and help bridge health literacy and digital divides (ref). They can be viewed online on personal devices or displayed during group outreach activities. A synopsis for the digital stories is below.

Trigger warning! Please be aware these videos include content about mental health issues, domestic violence, drug use, suicide ideation and suicide.

How to have a tough conversation about mental health

This auto-biographical 'origin' story showcases HALT (Hope and Assistance Local Tradies) health promotion presentations to tradespeople to highlight tradies mental health issues, reduce stigma in the trades industry and encourage mental health support uptake.

Slamming the Mental Health Stigma at TAFE

This digital story was originally created as a comic-based booklet depicting mental health support provided by SLAM, a Technical and Further Education (TAFE) student support team. The booklet was distributed with student orientation handouts, shared during HALT-TAFE presentations, and will be shared online.

The Rural Outreach Program illustrated digital story

This digital story was codesigned with a partnering organisation, rural outreach workers, local police and community members. It depicts the story of 'Sam' a young man struggling to cope with issues at home and illustrates how the rural outreach program supported him.


Hilary Davis

Hilary is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University of Technology. Her work investigates the role technologies play in people’s work, social and home lives. She seeks to understand how co-created comic-based digital stories might positively impact the mental health and wellbeing of people from diverse communities. Hilary has been working with digital storytelling across multiple projects. She has trained community members, including elders, health promotion and outreach service providers, to cocreate digital stories using personal smart devices. These digital stories portray lived experiences, highlight community innovation, connect people to service provision and showcase health promotion programs for community benefit.

Darren C. Fisher

Darren is a Drawing and Animation Lecturer with research and creative practice spanning across workplace health and safety, disability, education, psychology, tenant’s rights, and autobiography. Darren’s professional activities extend to a defined community of practice in comics and graphic novels, leading and managing creative teams for exhibition and publication of projects nationally. His teaching focuses on industry readiness through producing for creative industries, animation production, and both traditional and digital drawing. Darren believes that drawing and graphic storytelling are accessible to everyone for positive mental health, creativity, and as a facilitator of self-exploration.