Can an app help improve a young person's mood?
Published: 14 November, 2018
Dr Bridianne O'Dea's latest work harnesses technology in an effort to strengthen the relationships of young people.
The theme of National Psychology week this year is 'The Power of Human Connection'. The Australian Psychological Society is aiming to shine a light on loneliness and believes we can combat the issue by empowering people with practical steps to build stronger relationships and be better connected.
At The Black Dog Institute, Research Fellow Dr Bridianne O'Dea is currently testing out an app that aims to do just that by strengthening young people's relationships.
Dr O'Dea says that "adolescence can be a difficult time for establishing and maintaining relationships".
"Young people are learning to balance their increasing independence with the need to have ongoing support from their family so it can be natural for a young person to feel occasional periods of loneliness as they navigate new relationships".
Prolonged feelings of loneliness and a lack of connection with others can contribute to mental health problems though, and can signify that it’s time to get some help.
"The WeClick app may be a gateway for young people to seek help for their relationships," says Dr O'Dea.
In a nutshell, what is the WeClick app?
WeClick is a mobile phone app designed to reduce feelings of low mood and worry in young people by directly targeting their relationships. It tells the stories of four young people who are each facing different relationship issues.
"By working through the activities, the aim is to teach young people strategies that they can then apply to their own lives. The app was developed in consultation with 150 young people who provided their feedback on the content and its usefulness."
What role will the relationship app play in forming human connections?
"The app can help young people identify some of the challenges that they may be having in their relationships and use the strategies to overcome these. It also provides a range of tips from other young people about how to support their friends. The app also has trusted resources for where to seek more help and assistance"
What role can technology play in bringing people together?
Dr O'Dea strongly believes that technology can play a positive role in helping young people stay in contact, share thoughts and feelings, and stay connected to others.
"Technology is a great way to strengthen social ties while also providing a practical tool for organising social activities, staying safe, and communicating thoughts and feelings that may be difficult to communicate face-to-face. However, we know that all technology can be used in harmful ways. So its about educating young people and their families about appropriate uses of technology for social interaction.
What sort of relationship issues are explored in the app content?
The app explores parental conflict, sibling conflict, romantic relationships, peer pressure, and troubles with friends. It also highlights positive features of relationships such has providing help and support, having fun, and enjoying different types of activities.
"We know that being a good mate is important to youth, and that adolescence is a time of increased conflict with parents. We designed the app to explore the range of different relationship issues that young people experience."
What is the expected outcome of the project?
Dr O'Dea is hopeful that the app will help to fill the gap of evidence-based tools developed specifically for young relationships that are currently available.
"In our research, two thirds of young people indicated that they would see help for relationships from an app, but currently there are very few apps that are evidence-based and targeting the broad range of relationship issues young people face. We are now currently testing the WeClick app and its impact on mental health and social support. Hopefully, the app will prove to be an effective way to improve the mental health of young people."
When will it be available for young people to use?
The app is currently being trialed. Young people who are interested in testing the app can visit here to learn more.
Once the trial has completed in early 2019, we hope to make the app freely available to all youth.
If you or someone you know is in crisis please call one of the following national helplines:
LIFELINE COUNSELLING SERVICE - 13 11 14
SUICIDE CALL BACK SERVICE 1300 659 467 (cost of a local call)