New app reduces suicide rates among Indigenous youth

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The iBobbly app. Photo: Digital Dog

The first suicide prevention app ever made for Indigenous Australians has reported a 41 percent reduction in suicide among Indigenous trial users.

iBobbly, as the app is known, also recorded a 30 percent decrease in suicidal thinking and a 28 percent reduction in psychological distress for users aged 15 to 34, according to a study by the Black Dog Institute.

collaboration with Indigenous partners has been central to the project says Bill Reda, research assistant and project manager at the Black Dog Institute.

“Aboriginal elders are open‐minded and back the idea of an app as they, like everyone in the community, are looking for solutions to end the cycles of loss,” Reda says.

The conception of the app comes after suicide rates in Indigenous communities sit among the highest in the world, with one in 20 Indigenous Australians losing their life to self-harm.

Young Indigenous and Torres Strait islanders are 5.2 times more likely to die due to intentional self-harm than any other person in the same age range according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Joe Tighe, psychologist and PhD candidate at the Black Dog Institute says the app will address some of the barriers to health identified in the 2012 ATSI Health Survey.

“Studies have shown that Indigenous people are less likely to seek help for mental illness due to geographical isolation, stigma, concerns about confidentiality and a lack of trust in health care providers.”

“iBobbly demonstrated that using private and accessible technology that is relatable and culturally relevant can help overcome these significant barriers,” Tighe says.

Reda believes trial results reveal there is something about the app that goes beyond just attending to patients.

“There is an attempt being made to deliver treatment in a culturally relevant way and that is the first step in a positive direction.”

Reda has worked with Indigenous youth as a mentor and tutor but working on iBobbly has made him aware there is a much bigger picture that is not often spoken about.

“I hope iBobbly does its job and is redundant as soon as possible so there will not be a need for it,” he says.

The app is set to launch in 2019 after trials have been completed.

Click here to view the iBobbly trial study

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