Mental Health Research
‘The LifeBuoy App: A randomised controlled trial of a mHealth intervention to help young people manage suicidal thoughts ‘
University of New South Wales
Black Dog Institute, NSW
“The loss of a young life to suicide is particularly devastating; finding ways to prevent this from happening is critically important. Innovation in the use of digital interventions to improve suicidal outcomes is a new frontier – and being part of the research community to realise the potential of eHealth for suicide prevention is exciting.”
Dr Michelle Tye is a Senior Research Fellow at the Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales (UNSW). She is an NHMRC Early Career Fellow currently leading a program of research in developmental approaches to suicide prevention, with a focus on mHealth interventions for youth and early prevention in children. She is also the Deputy Director of LifeSpan – Australia’s largest multilevel suicide prevention trial, and a NSW Tall Poppy (2018).
Suicide the leading cause of death for young Australians, and the number of suicide deaths among those aged 15 – 24 years has increased by 40% in the past decade. Suicidal thoughts are a strong predictor of suicide attempt in young people, however, it is estimated that 50% – 70% of young people with suicidal thoughts have not accessed mental health services for reasons relating to stigma, service unavailability, and, cost. Developing interventions which provide easy access to coping strategies at all times may be particularly important for connecting young people to help when they need it most. Digital interventions have potential to provide support during crisis periods, and there is good evidence that adults are able to access and benefit from interventions effectively through apps. To date, there have been very few trials of mental health apps for young people, and no trials for apps which target suicidality in a youth population.
The current project will comprise a randomised research trial that involves 378 young people aged 16 – 24 years, recruited from the community using targeted social media advertising. The key objectives of the trial are to establish whether the LifeBuoy app can reduce suicidal thinking in young people, and whether this app is acceptable for this purpose. Young people will be surveyed before receiving the intervention, immediately post-intervention, and then at a four-month follow up. A qualitative investigation into the acceptability and engagement with the app will be conducted with a sub-sample of young people who received the intervention.
Co-Investigators: Dr Aliza Werner-Seidler, Dr Quincy Wong, Dr Jin Han & Dr Bridianne O’Dea