Helping prevent suicide among Australia's Indigenous Youth

Suicide in Australia amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples occur at twice the rate of the general population. Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at even greater risk, those aged 5 to 17 years, suicide is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

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Suicide is also the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 15-24, where it accounts for 1 in 3 deaths (Australian Bureau of Statistics, Leading Causes of Death, 2018).Compounding this situation is the fact that mental health differs between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face significant barriers to seeking help, including access, feelings of shame and stigma in addition to historical contexts such as colonisation, past policies and broader social and emotional wellbeing factors that can have an impact.

To help address these realities, Black Dog Institute in partnership with Alive and Kicking Goals Suicide Prevention Program in the Kimberley developed iBobbly – a social and emotional wellbeing self-help app designed specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Initially developed in 2010, iBobbly has since been through considerable testing and evaluation and was launched in 2019, now available from the iTunes and Google Play Store app stores.

What is iBobbly?

iBobbly is completely free, private and confidential, it’s an app designed to support young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples aged 15+ who may be feeling sad, down, or for those who want to build strong social and emotional wellbeing including how to manage difficult thoughts and feelings. Once downloaded iBobbly does not require ongoing internet access.

Everything that is seen and heard in the App draws heavily on Aboriginal metaphors, images and stories from Aboriginal artists and performers.

What are the main features within iBobbly?

There are three main features within the app:

  • How do I feel: walks the user through a quick check in and gives feedback on how they are going. This self-assessment questionnaire is designed using a psychological assessment questionnaire and asks questions that are used in acceptance and commitment therapy.
  • Stuff I can use: this section has three sub sections ‘the story teller’ which helps the user identify troubling thoughts and connect those thoughts with feelings and behaviours and helps the individual see their mind as a story teller and be more aware of how they think.

Feeling strong with the tough stuff shares strategies for emotion regulation like mindfulness and connecting to country.

What matters to me helps identify values through role models and setting goals to achieve according to those values.

  • How I’m gonna beat this: helps the user create their own personalised action plan for getting on top of troubling thoughts and feelings and also monitors progress. The user has the freedom to input whatever they are feeling that will help.

The testing and evaluation of iBobbly

iBobbly was first tested in a randomised controlled trial involving 61 Aboriginal people from the Kimberley, WA. Users reported significantly lower levels of depression and psychological distress. iBobbly was well received by people who tried it and feedback from users was positive.

The full results of the trial were published in the British Medical Journal (Open) in March 2017 and can be accessed here.

A second, large-scale RCT concluded in August 2019 and involved six locations around Australia and over 400 participants. Preliminary results are positive and expected for release in 2020.

 

For more information:

If you would like to access the iBobbly brochure or have any questions about iBobbly and how to best integrate it into your service or practice, please get in touch with the iBobbly team.

Email: t.schafer@blackdog.org.au

Webpage: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/resources-support/digital-tools-apps/ibobbly/

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Tiarnee Schafer

Tiarnee Schafer is a proud Kalkadunga Kintja (Kalkadoon woman) from Mt Isa QLD and is currently living in Sydney working at the Black Dog Institute as the iBobbly Project Officer and Social and Emotional Wellbeing Community Liaison. She graduated with a double degree in Psychological Science and Business.

After finishing high school, Tiarnee started to notice the alarmingly high rates of suicide in her community and saw the effects it had on her community and family. She wanted to help her mob and thought the best way to do that would be to study Psychology, which saw her move to Brisbane and attend Griffith University. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, Tiarnee has continued on to study a Master of Suicidology and is currently completing her fourth year in psychology studies.

Tiarnee’s lived experiences have made her passionate about improving the Social and Emotional Wellbeing within her own community and the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. She wants to be able to make a difference by gaining a better understanding of best practice in suicide prevention.

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