Making headway in fight against Indigenous youth suicide
Published: 14 March, 2017
Indigenous Australian youth aged between 15 and 34 have up to four times the risk of suicide compared with their non-Indigenous counterparts.
The situation is critical and demands innovative interventions in the face of ongoing poverty, disadvantage and, in some communities, the highest suicide rates in the world.
The Black Dog Institute’s iBobbly app, the first suicide prevention app designed for Indigenous Australians, has delivered promising results in the world’s first randomised controlled trial of a suicide prevention app in any population. Published in BMJ Open, the study showed that participants from the Kimberley region in Western Australia who used the app over a 6 week period reported a 42% reduction in symptoms of depression (statistically significant result), a 30% reduction in suicidal ideation (statistically non-significant result) and a 28% reduction in distress (statistically significant result).
Joe Tighe, psychologist and PhD candidate at the Black Dog Institute says that results are encouraging and technological innovations are working to overcome barriers, but the issue is complex and requires a broad community-led approach.
“We’ve got proof of concept that self-help activities based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) delivered through an app can work to reduce depression, distress and suicidal ideation in Indigenous young people. This, combined with strong community support and a very low drop-out rate of 3% suggests that the latest iBobbly app could have a much wider reach than the initial pilot.
“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.”
Collaboration with Indigenous partners has been central to the project. In addition to partnership and consultation with a range of organisations including the Broome-based Alive and Kicking Goals youth suicide prevention program, Indigenous artists and graphic designers created original imagery to represent the key messages and activities of the therapeutic content.
Bart Pigram, Young Leader at Alive and Kicking Goals said, “Obviously any positive influence this app can have and can be proven to have is a step in the right and safe direction for our youth.
“We aren’t always gunna have the answers or the resources to rid our community of this epidemic of suicide and depression but using what is available to us and seeing some positive trial results gives us the encouragement and willingness to continue doing what we do with the support provided by AKG, Black Dog and the iBobbly app. I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
Following the success of the pilot, version 2.0 has been developed, incorporating community feedback. A wider trial of the updated app is currently being undertaken across four sites: Broome and the West Kimberley (WA), Northern NT, Darling Downs (QLD) and Hunter New England (NSW).
For information on how to be involved in the trial, visit the iBobbly App page