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Depressed Y'ers in New Zealand find help in 3D fantasy game, study says Depressed Y’ers in New Zealand find help in 3D fantasy game, study says

So, allthough a recent study we did found that Generation Y around the world tends to be rather happy, there are of course Y’ers who are suffering from depression, not feeling that happy at all. And depression….  appears to be common among Gen Y’ers, researchers at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, state in the British Medicine Journal, but….. many are reluctant to seek professional help. So the researchers set out to assess whether a new innovative computerised cognitive behavioural therapy intervention called SPARX could reduce depressive symptoms as much as usual care can among Y’ers. And guess what: it helps.

SPARX is an interactive 3D fantasy game where a single user undertakes a series of challenges to restore balance in a virtual world dominated by GNATs (yes, this becomes medical, it means: Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts). It contains seven modules designed to be completed over a four to seven week period. Usual care mostly involved face-to-face counselling by trained clinicians. The research team carried out a randomised controlled trial in 24 primary healthcare sites across New Zealand. All 187 participants were between the ages of 12 and 19, and seeking help for mild to moderate depression and were deemed in need of treatment by primary healthcare clinicians. One group underwent face-to-face treatment as usual and the other took part in SPARX. Participants were followed up for three months and results were based on several widely used mental health and quality of life scales.

Satisfaction and recommendation

When questioned on satisfaction, 76/80 (95%) of SPARX users who replied said they believed it would appeal to other teenagers with 64/80 (81%) recommending it to friends. Satisfaction was, however, equally high in the group that had treatment as usual. But of course, one-on-one therapy sessions are far more expensive than a selfhelp computer game.

The authors conclude about the programme that it is an “effective resource for help seeking adolescents with depression at primary healthcare sites. Use of the program resulted in a clinically significant reduction in depression, anxiety, and hopelessness and an improvement in quality of life.”

Using technology to battle depression

Generation Y tends to be a technology savvy generation, so the success of the 3D video game to battle a mild depression can also be explained by GenY’s DNA: they are very comfortable with the use of technology in their day to day lives and they are not reluctant to use technology and games to battle depression. Tina Wells described it in a great way in her Generation Y Trends for 2012 blogpost.

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