Computer game to beat depression

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 08/07/2014
SPARX
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WAR ON STRESS: These are some of the characters used in the SPARX computer game to help teens battle depression, stress and anxiety.

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Canterbury has the highest number of teenagers per capita who are using a computer game to help combat depression and stress.

SPARX is a world-first initiative combining computer gaming technology with therapy strategies to help teenagers learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed. Players take on avatar characters and carry out tasks to earn points for positive thinking.

Since it was launched in April as part of the Prime Minister's Youth Mental Health Project, 20 per cent of the teenagers who have begun using the game are Cantabrians.

Youth health specialist Dr Sue Bagshaw puts that "absolutely without a doubt" down to the continuing stresses caused by living in the post-quake city, and the fact that 20 per cent of high school students suffered from low moods.

"I think there's a lot of anxious, low moods [in Christchurch]. And a lot of difficulties controlling moods particularly because adults around them are having the same difficulties."

But people were more aware of mental health in Christchurch, and were much more ready to try the cognitive behavioural therapy game, she said.

St John of God Hauora Trust Waipuna's Mark Radford said the youth agency had been using SPARX alongside one-on-one therapy sessions.

Bagshaw said not enough people knew about SPARX - designed for 12- to 17-year-olds and adults - so she and colleagues from the advisory group that developed the game would be presenting the idea to parents this week.

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- The Press

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