iBobbly app trial
iBobbly is the world’s first suicide prevention app designed for young Indigenous Australians that delivers therapy in a culturally relevant way. Suicide rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are among the highest in the world. This is despite many policies, programs and funding initiatives. iBobbly is a public health approach that focuses on individual risk in a co-designed format.
Update April 2019
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 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 developed with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The app uses evidence-based and culturally suitable content and represents a feasible way to reach young, at-risk people who have very low levels of help-seeking.
The iBobbly trial is also the first suicide intervention within the Australian Indigenous population which uses a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to test effectiveness.
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.
The iBobbly app is based on psychological therapies proven to that may reduce suicidal thoughts, and specifically targets Indigenous youth through the use of metaphors, images, and stories drawn from local Aboriginal artists and performers. It is believed that by creating a culturally suitable app, it 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 way to reach young, at-risk people. 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 underway across Australia to determine the effectiveness of the app in reducing suicidal thoughts, psychological distress, and symptoms of depression. Results from the trial are due mid-2019.
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).
Black Dog researchers will assess participants immediately after completing the app-based intervention as well as at 6 and 12 months post-intervention to determine any longer-term effects of using the app on a range of outcomes.
A full list of partnerships can be viewed in the following report. Since the report, we have further partnered with the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council, Wellways in Wagga, and Wiyiliin Ta and Aboriginal CAMHS team, Newcastle. Samsung generously donated 150 tablets for the trial, and additional funding support has been provided by the Commonwealth Department of Health, the New South Wales Mental Health Commission, nib Foundation, AON, Mostyn Family Foundation, and Matana Foundation for Young People.