Supporting rangatahi to uplift their hauora

A mana-enhancing app makes it easy and engaging for rangatahi to learn techniques for supporting their mental health and wellbeing.

Researchers at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland are using Mātauranga Māori to help support the health and wellbeing of rangatahi.

Kia Haumanu was launched during Matariki as part of the Headstrong app, which aims to help young people enhance their mental wellbeing by using proven strategies to manage stress, resolve conflict and deal with negative thoughts.

“Rangatahi sometimes find it hard to ask for mental health support. A trusted digital tool can be an easy place to start,” says Dr Tania Cargo (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Manu).

Kia Haumanu is a course which explores pūrākau, waiata, haka and whakataukī from seven different rohe to help start rangatahi on their journey of re-connection to their Māoritanga. It weaves together Mātauranga Māori, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Positive Psychology strategies.

The Headstrong app, first launched in 2022, was developed by a team of experts in digital innovation for youth mental health from the Department of Psychological Medicine. Headstrong’s content draws on Māori, Pacific and Western views on science and uses Te Whare Tapa Whā as the core holistic wellbeing model.

Cargo says it’s the first bilingual app (te reo Māori and te reo Pākehā) that has a virtual kaiāwhina or chatbot guide.

“The new Kia Haumanu course was a collaborative effort, designed by and with rangatahi Māori and supported by our Headstrong team,” she says.

“The rangatahi we worked with told us what was important to them. They wanted someone they could confide in without the fear of social consequences in their life; someone who understood their culture and the stresses of being a teenager; and someone they could relate to.”

How it works

Headstrong uses a chatbot to simulate simple conversations, allowing young people to interact with a digital guide as if they were communicating with a real person.

Kia Haumanu helps rangatahi to learn culturally validating techniques to revitalise and rebalance their hauora.

“We use te reo Māori, pūrākau, motivational whakataukī (proverbs), waiata and haka (audio tracks), infographics, mini games and mauri tau (mindfulness) exercises to make the content more relatable for rangatahi,” says Cargo.

Project co-leader Dr Karolina Stasiak says she is thrilled to harness some of Aotearoa’s digital innovation to support rangatahi.

“As a team of digital health researchers and clinicians, we are excited to see Headstrong grow and evolve,” says Stasiak.

“We welcome postgraduate students who might be interested in contributing to our kauapapa through research and other involvement too.”

Headstrong has worked in partnership with A Better Start, E Tipu E Rea, and National Science Challenge. The app is free thanks to funding from Te Whatu Ora.

Download the Headstrong app here

Media contact

Te Rina Triponel | Kaitohutohu Pāpāho Māori