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UoA researchers work with Māori to evaulate online mental health platform

05 May 2021

Researchers at the University of Auckland are embarking on a 12-month study to evaluate an online mental health platform designed especially for the Māori community.
 
With funding from Chorus, university researchers will work with Māori to evaluate the health platform called Clearhead.

The researchers want to understand how Māori engage with Clearhead, with a specific focus on what encourages and prevents Māori from using an online platform to support mental health and wellbeing.

They will work with Māori communities, including Lived Experience Project Lead for Te Pou and member of Te Kete Pounamu’s Aaryn Niuapu, and the wider Te Kete Pounamu community. The mahi will begin in the coming months.

University of Auckland senior clinical research fellow, Dr Amy Chan, says that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected New Zealanders’ mental health, evidenced through increasing rates of distress.

Chan and the team want to find out of an online platform such as Clearhead could provide mental health support.

“This is particularly important as mental health needs are on the rise and pressures are increased on our healthcare workforce,” Chan explains.

The Clearhead platform, designed by an Auckland-based local business, includes an AI-powered wellbeing assistant that can triage, refer, and educate users based on their risk profile. The assistant also creates a personalised wellbeing plan that monitors mental health progress over time.

Clearhead CEO and cofounder Dr Angela Lim says Māori are more likely to experience mental health distress but are also less likely to seek help. By providing the platform in te reo Māori and a mobile phone app, Lim believes mental health support will be more accessible.

Chan adds, “We have strong networks with Māori communities including those with lived experience of mental health. We will use these networks to reach out to Māori communities to identify the factors influencing engagement with the online platform, Clearhead, to see if it is an acceptable, safe, and effective way of delivering mental health support.”

Chorus is supporting the project because it aligns with the company’s Chorus’ goal of creating greater digital capability through the fibre network.

Chorus corporate social responsibility manager Hannah Taylor says the company is pleased to back meaningful change.

“The idea behind Clearhead and passion shown by the team behind the initiative is truly heart warming and such a fantastic example of putting our digital capabilities to good use.”

The results of the study are expected in late 2022.