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The launch of a Commonwealth funded training program to help Aboriginal and other health professionals better use apps and internet-based programs with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients was held in Lismore, NSW on 2 October 2014.

‘R U Appy’, the North Coast Aboriginal e-Social and Emotional Wellbeing Training Program, brings together work done by the University Centre for Rural Health (UCRH), the Menzies School of Health Research (NT) and Queensland University of Technology. Additional input was received from the Black Dog Institute, Macquarie University and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council

UCRH Associate Professor James Bennett-Levy said, “Recent Australian developments in the use of e-mental health programs include 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.

“The focus of our component of this national project is to train North Coast Aboriginal health professionals to develop awareness, skills and confidence in accessing and using new technologies as an additional tool to assist their clients.

“Many young people use smartphones, but very few young people use mental health services, despite the high incidence of mental health problems.

“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

“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,” A/Prof Bennett-Levy added.

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 in 2015.

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