SPARX the Video Game That Treats Depression
Clinical Trial Results – Published in British Medical Journal
Results from the randomized clinical trial published in the British Medical Journal demonstrated that treatment with SPARX was as effective as care usually given, typically face-to-face therapy, in reducing depression among adolescents with mild to moderate depression. Among the adolescents participating in the clinical trial, the remission rate for those using SPARX was 43.7%, while the remission rate for those receiving the usual face-to-face therapy was only 26.4%.
Meaning of the Study
SPARX is an effective resource for adolescents with depressive symptoms. It is at least as good as treatment as usual, would be cheaper and easier to disseminate, and could be used to increase access to therapy. It could provide access to treatment for young people who may be reluctant to have more conventional therapy.
SPARX also won an award in the e-Health category in 2011 from the UN’s World Summit Awards. The World Summit Awards is a global initiative within the UN framework which recognizes outstanding e-content and promotes it at a global congress.
SPARX is unique because of the gaming technology it uses to engage users and because over 180 young people have been involved in a trial to test its effectiveness. Feedback from the testers called SPARX effective, engaging and helpful. As one in four youngsters experience an episode of clinical depression by the age of 18, and three quarters of them never receive help, this programme has the potential to make a positive impact on the lives of many young people in New Zealand and internationally.
There are many reasons why they are left alone with their problems, thus reaching out in a format familiar to them could be considered a breakthrough in health and therapy fields.
In SPARX, you tackle and solve series of quests, learn to think, talk and act in a constructive way, you are encouraged to analyse and compare your traditional behaviour to the improved one, and apply these skills in everyday situations. SPARX helps build the way to better self esteem and manage mood and stress in real life.
It could be said that SPARX has introduced a concept of a novel and long-awaited approach to health issues regarding young people, creating a new category of “healthtainment”.
For more on this award: http://www.wsis-award.org/winner/sparx-76920110609
Why SPARX is Successful
Current treatments for mental health conditions — medications and psychotherapy — are avoided by most people, especially teens, because of concerns about: lack of privacy; feelings of stigma or shame; inaccessibility; inconvenience; cost; and drug side effects.
Online forms of psychotherapy have been developed, clinically-proven and beneficially used by patients internationally. With government support, departments of psychological medicine in universities in New Zealand and several other countries have pioneered iCBT –internet Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This e-therapy has been shown to be as effective as face-to-face psychotherapy. E-therapy also overcomes the issues which cause many people to avoid getting treatment.
Adolescents are particularly averse to current treatment, so a novel approach to therapy engagement and adherence is required. A team of child and adolescent mental health professionals and therapists, research psychologists, game developers and e-learning theorists and young people at the University of Auckland, led by Associate Professor Sally Merry, addressed that by developing SPARX – an interactive, role-playing, fantasy video game that delivers self-help CBT to adolescents with depression.
To learn more, visit SPARX IN THE MEDIA.