Supporting youth mental health with a dynamic chatbot

Aroha chatbot: Supporting youth mental health with a dynamic chatbot
About this project

The Aroha Chatbot is an important youth-focused addition to the suite of high-quality tools that the Ministry of Health have made available to support the mental health and wellbeing of New Zealanders during and in the aftermath of COVID-19. The base technology underlying Aroha allows agile ongoing iteration, driven by usage data, feedback obtained via the ongoing evaluation, and in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation.  

Aroha is able to support the development of youth mental health literacy, where issues of equity can be supported through the provision of Te Reo Māori and the content of Aroha allows the celebration of indigenous knowledge, attitudes and behaviours, meaning mental health support can reach Māori rangatahi who make up to 25% of the population in some regions and have almost double the rate of mental illness and suicidality of Pākehā youth.

Aroha will have an ongoing role in supporting the issues that young people face in the aftermath of COVID-19, and via being linked to the wider HABITs digital ecosystem can provide additional, including more intensive, support that young people might need.

Who is involved?

Principal investigators: Sarah Hetrick, Tania Cargo

Co-investigators: Sarah Hopkins, Chester Holt-Quick,Nicola Ludin, Karolina Stasiak, Jim Warren 

How long will it take?

The Aroha Chatbot was launched on 7 April, 2020.  There is currently no planned end date as we plan to continue to develop the Aroha Chatbot over the next several years and in line with the National Science Challenge, A Better Start, E Tipu e Rea.

Who is funding this project?

The Aroha chatbot has been funded by the Ministry of Health COVID-19 National Psychosocial Campaign – University of Auckland – Aroha Chatbot and by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund.

What we hope to achieve

The Aroha Chatbot is designed to help young people manage the anxiety and other difficulties that have arisen since COVID-19.  Aroha provides practical evidence-based tools for managing stress and ideas to maintain social connection, and to stay active and well.  The advice and activities are youth-specific, and responsive to Māori including culturally applicable activities and Te Reo Māori.  We hope that the Aroha Chatbot will continue to be an important tool for young people in supporting good mental health and wellbeing.

Related Projects

Further information

How to find Aroha:

Publications related to this project:

  • Holt-Quick, C., Warren, J., Stasiak, K., Williams, R., Christie, G., Hetrick, S., . . . Merry, S. (2020). A chatbot architecture for promoting youth resilience: Arxiv (2005.07355v1). Retrieved from