A Unique Video Game Helps Teenagers to Combat Depression
Researchers have created a unique video game that helps teenagers to combat depression. SPARX

Researchers from the University of Auckland have developed a video game that helps teenagers fight depression. They claim that the game is more effective than standard treatments mainly comprising face-to-face therapy.

A team led by Professor Sally Merry said that they have developed this unique game called SPARX to give teenagers fun and low-cost treatment.

To know the effectiveness of the SPARX game, researchers conducted a study on 187 teenagers from 24 sites around New Zealand, including secondary schools, youth clinics and general practices. Among the 187 teenagers, 94 received the SPARX game and the other 93 got standard care.

Researchers measured depression, anxiety and the overall behaviour of the participants before and after they received the game. They followed the participants for three months and found that participants who received the SPARX game learnt to combat depression and had completely recovered from depression compared to the people who received face-to-face therapy.

Teenage children who used the game learnt to overcome symptoms of depression. They learn how to deal with negative thoughts and to solve problems, according to the study.

SPARX uses CD Rom-based computer gaming to teach self-help for depression. It includes an interactive 3D fantasy game to teach young people the skills they need to cope with challenges and manage their moods. In contrast to many other e-therapies, SPARX has been designed to help young people learn through action in a virtual world. It is based on cognitive behavioural therapy, a proven therapeutic approach, according to researchers.

"Using computer technology that young people are comfortable with is one way of making therapy more accessible, practical, and hopefully more fun," said Sally Merry, professor at the University of Auckland. "It has been designed to be easily accessed by young people directly or to be delivered easily in primary care settings."

Depression is one of the common disorders that occur among teenagers. Depressed teenagers feel sad, hopeless, frequently cry and prefer to stay alone. They lose interest in activities, their energy levels are low and they keep thinking about death and suicide, according to a helpguide.org .

Watch the videos