New app provides safety net for youth at risk of self-harm

By Stefan Dimitrof

Maori and Pasifika youth are disproportionately represented in the country's suicide rates, with almost 37 per 100,000 Māori, compared to 19 per 100,000 of all young people.

In 2021 alone, more than five and a half thousand young people, appeared in emergency departments across New Zealand, for self-harming.

But now a new communications app called, 'Village', has been launched this week, to coincide with Youth Week, is aimed at addressing the growing mental health needs, among rangatahi, in Aotearoa.

It is founded on the premise that it takes a village to raise a child.

Auckland Starship Hospital child psychiatrist and paediatrician Dr Hiran Thabrew, who is also the app's clinical lead, said the idea for the app came from a young man who lost two of his close family members to suicide.

“He pitched the idea for the village at an event called Hackathon, which was sponsored by Datacom in 2018, and won the competition”.

Life-saving solutions

Thabrew said through the sponsorship of Starship and ASB they worked together for six months on a design, teaming with rangatahi and whanau to make the app a better fit for purpose with their input.

“While designing the app we realised that it wasn’t just something that was needed for young people but for the people that might want to support them because they may not know what to do or feel confident”.

“What we have is an app for young people that they can use to reach out to five trusted people we call buddies. Village helps the young person to figure out how they are feeling and to let other people know and to receive support in ways that are preferred by them.

“It allows the buddies to check in on a regular basis and respond in ways that are helpful and provides them information about good communication and common mental health issues.”

Thabrew hopes Village will help young people, whanau and friends start conversations that can become real life-saving solutions.