Apps: A New Way of Providing Mental Health Resources for Indigenous Communities

In the last couple years technology has come to the forefront in providing mental health assistance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Yarn Up Feel Deadly and iBobbly apps provide some incredible free services that have been developed by mob for mob. Mental health is a serious issue within Indigenous communities. In a study conducted in 2020 by Smiling Minds ‘State of Mind report’, in conjunction with the University of Newcastle, it was found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents experienced depression (51.7 per cent) and anxiety (58.9 per cent) at a much higher rate than non-Indigenous respondents (Smiling Mind, 2020). There are a huge number of factors that affect Indigenous mental health including grief and loss, stolen children, unresolved trauma, loss of identity and culture and discrimination and racism (Creative Spirits, 2020).

iBobbly app. Courtesy of Black Dog Institute, 2020.

Yarn Up Feel Deadly was the winner of the Mental Health Matters Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Award for 2020. The innovative app was developed to assist in providing mental health services in HNELHD (Hunter New England Local Health District) for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and to help bridge the gap between staff and community. While the app focuses upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, it can be of benefit to everyone (WayAhead Programs, 2020).

The team behind the Yarn Up Feel Deadly App. Courtesy of Mental Health Commission of New South Wales, 2020.
Yarn Up Feel Deadly was established in 2017, with the app launching in 2019. The app includes 45 video testimonials from across the Hunter New England district, showing people yarning about their identity, culture, wellbeing and mental health experiences. These testimonials put a name to a face of people who work within mental health services in the HNE district. The app is designed to improve consumer and carer engagement by providing culturally appropriate resources. These resources include video testimonials about the learning of Aboriginal languages, information on mental health conditions and details about upcoming community events and jobs (Yarn Up Feel Deadly, 2019).

If you’d like to check out Yarn Up Feel Deadly you can download it on Google Play or the App Store.

iBobbly is another app that has been recently released. It recognises the need to offer new innovative ways to support and build social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The app was developed and trialed by the Black Dog Institute, a medical research institute who investigate mental health in Australia. iBobbly has been shaped by Indigenous community members to make sure that the app is culturally safe (Black Dog Institute, 2020).
iBobbly app. Courtesy of Black Dog Institute, 2020.

iBobbly is specifically designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are 15 years or older and are feeling sad and down. The app has four main features which help you step by step with your mental wellbeing. It starts with the question ‘How do I feel?’ which walks you through a self-assessment and gives you feedback on how you’re going. Next is ‘Stuff I can use’ which teaches you how to manage your thoughts and feelings. Then, there is ‘How I’m gonna beat this’ which helps you create your own personalised action plan. Lastly, the ‘Help’ tab provides other help and support options. The app is a huge barrier breaker; it's free, private and engaging (NIT, 2021).

If you’d like to check out iBobbly you can download it on Google Play or the App Store.

We highly recommend everyone check out these incredible apps. They are an incredible way of getting help and are completely confidential and culturally sensitive. The mental health and wellbeing of First Nations people is hugely important. So, the more we yarn and share, the easier it will be to tackle these big issues.

If you are struggling with your mental health here are some additional resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

WellMob - brings together online resources made by and for mob. Their website provides useful links to podcasts, videos, social media as well as online counselling with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing.

Headspace - are the National Youth Mental Health Foundation. They provide a safe space to yarn and can assist any problems you might have with physical health, mental health, stress and pressure, relationships and drugs.

National Indigenous Postvention Service (NIPS) - provide emotional and practical support to families who have been impacted by a loss from suicide or other traumatic events.

If you need to speak to someone urgently, call lifeline on 13 11 14