News & Analysis

Startup Fishwah offering children an innovative tool to help combat anxiety

- February 4, 2014 2 MIN READ

A study published in 2008 by Wignall et al. points to an alarming statistic – that one in ten children are being diagnosed with anxiety disorder in Australia. Stephen and Natalie Byrne realised the need for an affordable, digital solution after their son, Isaac, was diagnosed with the debilitating mental illness years ago. Yesterday, they launched their startup Fishwah with their hearts set on combating childhood anxiety.

Fishwah is based on the principles of exposure therapy with structured goal setting, but offers an online option for helping 6 to 12 year olds with their personal development and growth. The behavioural change tool brings parents and children together to help children gain confidence and achieve goals – from academic to special needs, as well as those focused on overcoming worries, fears and phobias.

The digital platform provides the structure to break goal setting into manageable steps with a system for rewarding progress, while also offering tips and strategies to empowers parents who would typically feel helpless in these circumstances.

Co-Founders of Fishwah, Mr and Mrs Byrnes, said they built the tool because they had limited to access the right kind of help, after learning that their son suffered from anxiety issues.

“Four years ago we learned that our son was suffering from anxiety issues, and we found there were no easy-to-access, hands-on, achievable programs for families to combat it,” Mr Byrne said in the media release.

“While traditional therapy can help, it is often difficult for families to juggle sessions with their busy daily schedules. While developing our own family’s response, Natalie and I began to design a digital tool to track and reward our child’s progress. We found that we’d built the groundwork for something that could help any parent in the same position as we were in – and the idea for Fishwah was born.”

Mrs Byrne added that a lack of confidence is a significant issue for kids that can hold them back in their day-to-day lives.

“Fishwah is breaking down access barriers with a new digital approach to traditional therapeutic techniques. Essentially we’ve taken the principles of the successfully proven exposure therapy, which is all about breaking down fears into graded steps, but we are making it digital,” Mrs Byrnes said in the media release.

“Fishwah offers an affordable option that allows families to work together from home in their own time. It can even be used by schools for learning development or psychologists as an extra tool for their kit bag. Children respond well to technology – online tools can engage kids in a positive way and Fishwah is ultimately helping them with their development and growth.”

Australian statistics show:

  • Over a 12 month period, one in seven Australians suffer anxiety (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007).
  • Anxiety is the most common problem reported by children of all ages. Diagnosable anxiety disorders are found in around one in ten children (Wignall et. al, 2008).
  • The most common types of anxiety disorders in primary school aged children are phobias (including social phobias), separation anxiety and generalised anxiety (Kids Matter).
  • Health economists predict that anxiety and depression will be the second highest burden of any disease by 2030 (Word Health Organization).
  • Research highlights the important role that parents play in affecting child anxiety, via their own anxiety and their parenting. It is therefore essential that parents are active participants in intervention (Hudson & Dodd, 2012).
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Exposure Therapy are considered the most effective treatments for anxiety disorders. They have an 80 percent efficacy rate when used properly and consistently (EBBP).

More information is available via www.fishwah.com.