Mathijs Lucassen: Reflections on co-designing and disseminating serious games for adolescent mental health


Many adolescents will experience depression and anxiety, but access to evidence-based psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), is limited. Common barriers to therapy access include a range of factors, such as the stigma associated with mental ill-health and a lack of qualified therapists for those who do attempt to seek formal support. Computerised CBT (cCBT) in self-help serious game format provides an opportunity to deliver treatment to many young people at a time and place of their choosing. We developed a gamified cCBT program called SPARX (Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factors thoughts). SPARX has previously been evaluated in randomised controlled trials amongst adolescents in New Zealand, Australia, and the Netherlands. It has also been trialled with a diverse range of adolescents, including: First Nations young people (Māori in New Zealand and Inuit youth in Nunavut – Canada); youth excluded from mainstream education; and LGBT+ youth. Since April 2014 SPARX has been provided freely to everyone with a New Zealand IP address. In this presentation people will be provided with a brief overview of the lessons learned getting SPARX from ‘the lab’ into the ‘real world’ for adolescents with depression and anxiety. The opportunities and challenges associated with serious gaming in mental health will also be discussed. Finally, the next steps for SPARX-related research, in particular for LGBT+ youth, will be discussed.

Speaker: Dr Mathijs Lucassen, Senior Lecturer, Mental Health

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