'Ask Ruru' app aims to help youth in crisis

By Regan Paranihi

An exciting new resource has been created to help support young people in crisis, called ‘Ask Ruru’.

Ask Ruru is an app that can be used by a mental health worker and their client (young person) to communicate with each other via call and via text. This will allow the social workers to log crisis and mental wellbeing skills they have discussed with clients. The calls and texts can also be analysed through the app to get a broad view of the client’s state of mind over a period of time so the client can learn how to become effective at dealing with distress.

Nurse Dion Howard says, “Young adults and teenagers generally rely on mobile calls and text messages to communicate, and each text or call provide an insight into what they’re experiencing in that moment.”

Howard says communicating with youth through using their phones can allow them to keep an eye on their state of mind and whether or not they are progressing. It will help provide a safe and effective coaching approach.

Developers Jaymesh Master, Michael Smith and Rosie Parry alongside Howard brought ‘Ask Ruru’ to life and are working closely with a Wellington-based web development school Dev Academy to develop the app.

At this year’s Ministry of Health and Health Informatics New Zealand (HiNZ) initiative that seeks innovative healthcare technology, ‘Ask Ruru’ received the runner-up award and won the HiNZ Wellington Hackathon in 2015.

“We’re excited to build on the name recognition that has come through the Challenge and Hackathon and get people using ‘Ask Ruru’ in their work supporting young people in mental health crisis,” says Howard.