Background: Culturally responsive, strengths-based early-intervention mental health treatment programs are considered most appropriate to influence the high rates of psychological distress and suicide experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. Few early intervention services effectively bridge the socio-cultural and geographic challenges of providing sufficient and culturally relevant services in rural and remote Australia. Mental Health apps provide an opportunity to bridge current gaps in service access if co-designed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to meet their needs.
Aims: This paper reports the results of the formative stage of the AIMhi-Y App development process which engaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in the co-design of the new culturally informed AIMhi-Y App.
Methods: Using a participatory design research approach, a series of co-design workshops were held across three sites with five groups of young people. Workshops explored concepts, understanding, language, acceptability of electronic mental health tools (e-mental health) and identified important characteristics of the presented applications and websites, chosen for relevance to this group. An additional peer supported online survey explored use of technology, help seeking and e-mental health design elements which contribute to acceptability.
Results: Forty-five, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, aged 10–18 years, from three sites in the Northern Territory (NT) were involved in the workshops (n = 29). Although experiencing psychological distress, participants faced barriers to help seeking. Apps were perceived as a potential solution to overcome barriers by increasing mental health literacy, providing anonymity if desired, and linking young people with further help. Preferred app characteristics included a strength-based approach, mental health information, relatable content and a fun, appealing, easy to use interface which encouraged app progression. Findings informed the new AIMhi-Y App draft, which is a strengths-based early intervention wellbeing app for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.
Conclusions: Research findings highlight the need, feasibility and potential of these types of tools, from the perspective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.