iBobbly app trial
iBobbly is the world’s first suicide prevention app designed for young Indigenous Australians that delivers treatment-based therapy in a culturally relevant way. Suicide rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are among the highest in the world. However, existing interventions and treatments have only demonstrated limited success in addressing this concerning issue.
Update August 2017
The iBobbly mobile app trial took place in the Kimberley region of Western Australia between September 2013 and March 2015 and involved the use of a new app by 61 people in the region. This pilot study was established by the Black Dog Institute in Sydney and coordinated locally by Men’s Outreach Service Inc and the Alive and Kicking Goals Suicide Prevention Program.
Compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts, Indigenous youth aged 15-24 have four times the risk of suicide, and those aged 25-34 have almost three times the risk. However, very few indigenous people intend to seek help before acting on suicidal thoughts.
Despite many policies, programs and funding initiatives, rates of suicide are rising across the Indigenous community.
Novel programs and strategies, including e-mental health solutions, are required to address the urgent needs of Indigenous communities.
iBobbly is a trial of the world’s first suicide prevention app designed especially for use by Indigenous Australians.
The iBobbly trial aims to:
- determine whether the app is effective in reducing levels of suicidal thoughts in young Indigenous Australians, aged between 16 and 30 years old
- examine the effects of the app on other markers of mental health (including depression symptoms, impulsivity, hopelessness, perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness, help-seeking intentions, and health service use).
The iBobbly app is based on psychological therapies proven to reduce suicidal thoughts, yet specifically targets Indigenous youth through the use of Indigenous metaphors, images, and stories drawn from local Aboriginal artists and performers. It is believed that by basing the app on culturally relevant factors, the app will be more effective than non-specialised interventions in preventing Indigenous youth suicide.
The name iBobbly has been derived from a Kimberley greeting. The Kimberley area is a rich linguistic region in north-west Australia, where over 30 different Aboriginal language groups exist.An app-based format was chosen as it represents a feasible, cost effective way to reach young, at-risk people who report very low levels of help-seeking. Many Indigenous youth live in isolated communities, therefore, iBobbly has been designed such that once the app is downloaded, ongoing internet access is not required. Indigenous youth have a high rate of mobile phone usage, giving the program wide reach.
A large-scale evaluation is currently being rolled out across Australia to determine the effectiveness of the app in reducing suicidal thoughts. We will compare and contrast the effects of using the iBobbly app with an alternative app to determine if our app is effective in reducing suicidal thoughts in young Indigenous Australians.
The result of our pilot, a randomised controlled trial (RCT) done in the Kimberley, suggests that the app may be effective.Black Dog researchers will assess participants immediately after completing the app-based intervention as well as at 6, 12 and 24 months post-intervention to determine any longer-term effects of using the app on reducing suicidal thoughts.
The proposed study represents the first suicide prevention intervention designed specifically for Indigenous Australian youth (16-30 years), delivered in an app-based format, and examined using RCT methods. Currently, a large-scale evaluation of the iBobbly program is being rolled out across several Australian states.
iBobbly was developed in partnership with Alive and Kicking Goals Suicide Prevention Program (WA), HITnet Innovations, Thought works, Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit UNSW, Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, Kimberley Aboriginal Community Members (WA), Men’s Outreach Service (WA), Aboriginal Artists – Martha Lee, Danica Manado and Esah Coffin, Nyamba Buru Yawuru Aboriginal Corporation, Rubibi (Broome, WA), Goolarri Media (WA), Dr Kathy McKay and BackTrack (NSW). Samsung generously donated 150 tablets for the trial.