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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing app making an impact

Recent insights show mental health self-help app, iBobbly, is having a positive impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of over 6,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth across Australia.

It’s been two years since Black Dog Institute first launched the app to the public and the latest insights show a positive response from the community. Funded by nib foundation, the free app offers a range of culturally adapted psychological activities and strategies for building and maintaining good mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15 years and over.

Black Dog Institute’s iBobbly Project Officer, Tiarnee Schafer, said since the initial pilot launch in 2019, they’ve received a significant increase in the number of app downloads, reflecting the strong demand for targeted and culturally relevant digital mental health solutions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

“Over the past two years, more than 6,000 people have downloaded iBobbly, which is a 300% increase on our initial target of 1,600. It’s reassuring to see the positive uptake of our self-help app, knowing that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this target age group are four times more likely to be at risk of suicide than their non-Indigenous counterparts,” Ms Schafer said.

“By providing easy access to clinically based interactive learning activities, monitoring tools and personalised support, we hope Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth experiencing poor mental health or suicide ideation feel supported to maintain their mental health and manage troubling thoughts and feelings,” she added.

In addition to the high uptake, Ms Schafer said Black Dog Institute remained confident of iBobbly’s potential for building stronger mental health and wellbeing among users.

“A recent user survey* showed more than 50% of respondents reported a perceived improvement in mental health and wellbeing after using the app. This is positive and supports the iBobbly randomised control trial where users reported significantly lower levels of depression and psychological distress,” Ms Schafer said.

nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe, said the Black Dog Institute’s careful approach to the development and delivery of the app as well as grassroots support from community organisations has been crucial to its success.

“Unlike most online programs, the app has been designed by, and for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, using imagery, videos and stories by Aboriginal artists and performers. Black Dog Institute’s partnerships with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led and community organisations have also been crucial to getting the app into the hands of those who need it most,” Mrs Tribe said.

EORA Tafe, ALIVE and Kicking Goals!, Selectability, NRL, WellMob, Culture is Life and Homelands Yanguuwii are just some of the organisations who have partnered with Black Dog Institute to deliver the app to local communities across the country.

ALIVE and Kicking Goals! Female Peer Educator, Jessica Edgar, said the app is a great tool to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in the communities of Broome take control of their mental health and identify when they’re not feeling ok.

“iBobbly allows our mob to overcome stigma and gain a sense of control over themselves and their health. To be able to provide this resource to the remote communities we work in, who sadly experience higher rates of suicide, is so powerful, especially in communities that only have fly-in fly-out mental health support,” said Ms Edgar.

“It helps our mob to break up those feelings of helplessness, which often comes from feeling like they have no control and allows them to take ownership over their own mental health,” she added.

iBobbly is available to download free on iTunes and Google play.
*Survey conducted in June 2021. Total number of survey respondents = 35

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing app making an impact