Background: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians experience high rates of mental illness and psychological distress compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. E-mental health tools offer an opportunity for accessible, effective, and acceptable treatment. The AIMhi Stay Strong app and the ibobbly suicide prevention app are treatment tools designed to combat the disproportionately high levels of mental illness and stress experienced within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
Objective: This study aimed to explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members' experiences of using two culturally responsive e-mental health apps and identify factors that influence the acceptability of these approaches.
Methods: Using qualitative methods aligned with a phenomenological approach, we explored the acceptability of two culturally responsive e-mental health apps through a series of three 3-hour focus groups with nine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members. Thematic analysis was conducted and coresearcher and member checking were used to verify findings.
Results: Findings suggest strong support for the concept of e-mental health apps and optimism for their potential. Factors that influenced acceptability related to three key themes: personal factors (eg, motivation, severity and awareness of illness, technological competence, and literacy and language differences), environmental factors (eg, community awareness, stigma, and availability of support), and app characteristics (eg, ease of use, content, graphics, access, and security and information sharing). Specific adaptations, such as local production, culturally relevant content and graphics, a purposeful journey, clear navigation, meaningful language, options to assist people with language differences, offline use, and password protection may aid uptake.
Conclusions: When designed to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, e-mental health tools add an important element to public health approaches for improving the well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Keywords: acceptance and commitment therapy; cognitive behavioral therapy; culturally competent care; indigenous populations; mental health; mobile apps; therapeutics.