What does ibobbly do? ibobbly delivers evidence-based therapy designed for young Indigenous Australians. It aims to reduce suicidal thoughts, psychological distress, and impulsivity. In our pilot study, participants are provided with a tablet with ibobbly pre-loaded. We assess them at baseline and then again at six weeks to see if the app is having an impact. We provide links to crisis and mental health services, and follow people up at three weeks to ensure they are safe. Participants can listen, swipe, click, and watch, making the app interactive and engaging. It contains very little text, and any text is accompanied by audio voice-over.
Tell us about the development process for ibobbly. Developing ibobbly kicked off with discussions about the concept between the researchers at Black Dog Institute and the AKG steering committee and peer educators. AKG is a community-controlled suicide prevention organisation based in the Kimberley region. Their enthusiastic support for the app meant that we were able to proceed with focus groups to develop the content within a therapeutic framework, bring on board Aboriginal graphic artists and actors from the Kimberley area, and develop the scripts with the help of AKG’s young peer educators and their contacts. Focus groups were also run in Armidale with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through BackTrack. Funding was provided by the Department of Health, and other support from HITnet Innovations and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre. In the latter stages of the project, ThoughtWorks became involved to coordinate the input and bring everything together in a software package.
How were Indigenous Australians involved in the development process? The content of ibobbly has been developed in collaboration with young Indigenous Australians through AKG and BackTrack. The artwork was developed by three Aboriginal artists from the Broome area – Martha Lee, Danica Manado, and Esah Coffin. AKG’s peer educators ran focus groups and provided their own input to tell us about the kinds of issues that challenge young Indigenous Australians, the types of distressing thoughts that can arise, some of the helpful and unhelpful coping strategies they’ve used, and what really matters to them. This information was used to draft scenarios, thoughts, feelings and scripts. The scripts and other content were once again edited by the AKG group. Young Aboriginal actors were hired through Goolarri Media to provide voice overs within the app.
The app is being extensively tested – tell us about the evaluation process. At the moment the pilot is being run in the Kimberley region and we hope to expand it into two or three areas of New South Wales within the next couple of months. Participants in the pilot are assessed at baseline and then randomly allocated to receive ibobbly immediately or to go on a waitlist for six weeks. Each participant is followed up at three weeks and again at six weeks. Those who are on the waitlist are provided with ibobbly at the end of the six week waiting period. This allows us to compare the results of those who receive the app immediately with those who are on the waitlist.
We are measuring psychological distress, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and impulsivity. We are also asking participants about their experience of using the app and how they think it could be improved. This information will be used to upgrade the app this year. A national trial kicks off in early 2015.
How will the evaluation results be shared? For the pilot, AKG is closely involved with recruitment and data collection. AKG will also be closely involved in the changes to be made later this year. A shared and thorough examination of the quantitative and qualitative outcomes will be part of this process. For the larger trial, we will discuss with each community how they would like us to share the results of the trial. The Black Dog Institute also disseminates its research findings through social media, community fora, peer reviewed publications, and professional and scientific conferences.