The Australian developers of a mobile phone app designed to help youth at risk of suicide say the product is making a difference after a trial in Broome. Together with the Black Dog Institute, suicide prevention group Alive and Kicking Goals launched the i-bobbly app last year to a select group of over-18s in Broome. I-bobbly spokesman Mel Hoy said it was a self-help tool targeting a generation constantly on their phones or iPads. “If you get those ones [young people] that are completely shut off from speaking to people, you can get them in and they can bring the app with them and they can work together,” she said. “It’s radio as well, so if people have got issues reading, they can hear it.” Ms Hoy said the user progresses through a series of questions designed to provide insight into their mental wellbeing. “You go through each screen and answer simple day-to-day questions, and after each module it outlines how you think, to how you feel, how you behave,” she said. “So it lines it out in front of you. If you’re going through it and you feel you need to talk to somebody, there are people to call. After six weeks they come back in…we sit down and see how you’re doing. From the beginning they see the questions they’ve answered and what they’ve got to now and they can see the difference.”
Helping youth in remote communities access help
The data is analysed by the counselling team who talk with the app user. “It’s got a diary in there so you can go through and see how you were feeling on certain days and the times, and actually what led up to that, so it maps it out,” Ms Hoy said. There are anecdotal reports that the trial has helped people get crucial help. “There was one young fella in one of the communities that said the app saved his life basically,” Ms Hoy said. “It’s helping those people to seek help and it’s been a good starting point. I’ve got a couple of girls I know who were talking about it and just from talking within themselves, another young girl heard what they were saying, and she wasn’t old enough for the app, but she still rang one of the other services to get help.” The suicide prevention group Alive and Kicking Goals began on an AFL football field in the Kimberley. Bart Pigram, a steering committee member of the group, said the main goal was to break down the stigma of mental health and suicide. “The more we talk about it, the more it’s out there … and hopefully that has a positive effect,” he said. At one point, most of Mr Pigram’s local football team were dealing with mental health issues, and as a group, decided to do something to help each other. “I think it was about six to seven years ago – Joe Tighe, the now coordinator, was working for Men’s Outreach and came up with this concept. He, along with our footy teammates, who mostly have been affected by suicide, thought about it and started talking about counselling,” he said. “Just basically getting around the campfire – no alcohol involved, no drugs, just talking about feelings and breaking down stigma about suicide, because we did have that growing up.”
Speaking at the official opening of the group’s office in Broome recently, Mr Pigram said progress was being made. “You ask any Indigenous footballer in the Kimberley and probably non-Indigenous footballers and they’d know of a teammate or a relative of a teammate or somebody who’s probably been affected by suicide,” he said. “It’s rife here, just look at the statistics. “It was alarming then, it’s still alarming now and the more we grow, the more we progress. ”
Expanding the project to target younger people
Ms Hoy said the app’s success meant the project would soon be expanded to a younger, wider audience. “For the first i-bobbly there was only up to 100 people able to participate,” she said. “This next i-bobbly is going to up to 500 participants. We’re working through that now but also we’re working with the guys in the Northern Territory and some mob over in Queensland.” The trial version was designed for youth aged over 18 years because of its language content, but the second version will be made available to those aged 16 years and above. I-bobbly 2 is due to go live in June.
This article first appeared ABC, 21 February 2015.