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March 3, 2024

New apps address indigenous mental health

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Health professionals at yesterday's launch.
Health professionals at yesterday’s launch.

A program to help Aboriginal and other health professionals use apps and internet-based programs with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients is being rolled out across the northern rivers region.

Those professionals received a briefing yesterday from University Centre for Rural Health associate professor James Bennett-Levy.

He said recent Australian developments in the use of e-mental health programs included the design of two Aboriginal-specific apps for improving social and emotional wellbeing – the Stay Strong App – developed in the Northern Territory by the Menzies School -and the i-Bobbly App, developed by the Black Dog Institute, Sydney.

‘Many young people use smartphones, but very few young people use mental health services, despite the high incidence of mental health problems.,’ professor Bennett-Levy said.

‘Online technologies and apps enable health professionals to meet people in the places where they hang out. This is particularly important for reaching younger members of the community,’ he added.

‘Yet there are many challenges, such as the need to up-skill the health professional workforce to better engage with these new approaches and to develop strategies to effectively integrate e-tools into current practice.

‘Rather than replacing the role of therapists and health workers the e-Mental Health program will further enhance their skills and resources.

‘This is a crucial initiative with nationwide implications, which is why the Commonwealth is actively promoting this program.’

The federally funded program brings together work done by the University for Rural Health, the Menzies School of Health Research (NT) and Queensland University of Technology, with additional input from the Black Dog Institute, Macquarie University and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council

Project development was guided by ongoing consultation with regional Aboriginal organisations and individuals, including advisory groups in Lismore and the Tweed.

The training program will be available to all northern NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals and other health professionals who work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Roll out is set to begin next year.


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