New App Goalzie Breaks Down The Stigma Of Seeking Help For Teens

06/02/2016 11:43 AM AEDT | Updated February 6, 2016 11:43
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A new app designed by young people is breaking down the stigma of seeking help from others through the gamification of goals.

Goalzie, developed by the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre in collaboration with teenagers, lets users challenge their friends to complete goals -- or face the consequences.

“Challenges include things like writing a resume, making a Vine video, doing a workout,” Young and Well CRC CEO, Associate Professor Jane Burns, told The Huffington Post Australia.

“If you don’t do the things that you set yourself, there’s consequences – washing the car, not using Facebook for two days, doing chores – things that aren’t necessarily terrible but might be unpleasant.”

And though it’s a bit of fun, the serious side of the app is its aim of helping young people get into the practice of asking others for help if they’re in trouble.

The creators say that encouraging social networking between peers -- and attaching it to the setting and completion of goals -- fosters an attitude where young people are willing to approach others for help.

75 per cent of mental health difficulties occur before the age of 25 in Australians, with 70 per cent of girls and 80 per cent of boys not seeking help when managing their mental health issues.

“Through apps like Goalzie we are trying to break down stigma and instil help-seeking behaviour using humour and gamification,” Burns said.

She said giving young people the power to manage their own care was one of the most effective ways to ensure they looked after themselves as they grew up.

“It’s called person-centric care -- the person rather than the professional looks after and supports their own wellbeing, interfaced with professional care. The person is in control,” she told HuffPost Australia.

The app links to other services offered by Australian mental health and wellness groups if the person using it is having a tough time.

“The other really important thing about Goalzie is – it really promotes the idea that if you are struggling, you access support from services like Reachout, Headspace, and Kids Helpline, or Lifeline,” Burns said.

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Groups of young people were involved in every stage of the app’s creation, from the initial design through to testing and feedback. 13-year-old schoolmates Diya Mehta, Kris Kavanagh, and Milos Mijatovic were part of the group that helped create the app.

Mehta said it was exciting to receive a challenge from a friend.

“A lot of content online nowadays, it’s either fun or good for you. Goalzie strikes a balance between the two. It’s engaging but educational too,” she told HuffPost Australia.

Kavanagh said the app helped keep him focused on what he wanted to achieve.

“I feel like some young people don’t know what they want to do. If you set goals you feel motivated to achieve them.”

He’s got a rivalry with friend Mijatovic, with the two sending each other challenges each day to complete for a bit of friendly competition.

For Mijatovic, being involved in the app’s creation built his confidence.

“It helps with real-life experiences at school and outside of school. If a teacher sets you homework you don’t understand, it helps you to ask your friends or a guardian how to do it,” he told HuffPost Australia.

“Through this app and creating this app it helped me, it helped me to ask for help myself.”

Lead researcher on the project, Dr Barbara Spears, from the University of South Australia, said Goalzie was based on extensive research and consultation with young people.

“By practising setting goals for others, and helping them to achieve their goals in a fun way, young people are learning and establishing important, positive patterns of behaviour,” Dr Spears said.

“Being socially connected, and reaching out to others for help and assistance breaks down barriers and stigma about setting goals and seeking help to achieve them.”

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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