This article describes the development of two graphic novels as a new approach to mental health communication and coping strategies for the Navy and Marine Corps. The novels are intended to capture the attention of the younger target audience and provide vital teaching messages to better prepare personnel for deployment to combat zones. The novels were developed based on embedding the principles of combat and operational stress control (COSC) into realistic and relatable characters, stories, and images. Approaches used for development included (a) basing storylines on real-life service members and the situations they face in combat and their personal lives; (b) partnering with COSC experts to embed teaching points; (c) ensuring technical accuracy through research and target audience reviews of the storyboard and artwork; (d) developing characters that are representative of the target audience, with varied jobs, ages, backgrounds, and professional concerns; and (e) designing artwork in a manner sensitive to training objectives and the psychological effects on readers. Because technical accuracy, realism, and sensitivity were noted as essential components of an effective graphic novel tool, focus-group research and review of author drafts by the target audience and technical experts are strongly recommended.
A new stress mitigation tool for military training: Developing content for hard-to-reach audiences