A refreshed look and feel for SPARX
SPARX, the e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland, has just been updated with a refreshed look. The graphics and text have a crisper feel and the colours have become brighter to capture making it easier to use and visually more appealing. The navigation has also been improved, making it easier to move through the game for a better and more engaging experience.
What is SPARX
SPARX is an online mental health tool that helps young people with mild to moderate depression. It is available to play on a computer browser and is also available as an app to download. It’s a fun mental health tool that can help teenagers who may be feeling anxious or stressed. They can take a Mood Quiz through SPARX to determine if it can help. The quiz was developed with the help of young people and is based on a type of ‘talking therapy’ called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT for short. CBT can be done with a counsellor or a psychologist but CBT skills can also be learned from SPARX. All they need is a PC or device with access to the internet.
CBT teaches skills about how to cope with negative thoughts and feelings by helping people to think in a more balanced and helpful way and getting them to do things they enjoy or that give them a sense of achievement. There is significant research to show that CBT helps.
We tested SPARX in a large study in New Zealand and the results were published in the British Medical Journal in 2012. In addition, three doctoral projects evaluated SPARX with Maori, Rainbow or same/both sex attracted youth and young people in Alternative Education.
We found that:
- SPARX was as effective as standard care for youths 12 to 19 years old seeking help for depression;
- SPARX reduced depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and improved quality of life;
- These changes lasted for at least three months;
- SPARX worked better for those with more severe depression (but still within mild-moderate range);
- SPARX worked equally well across different ethnic groups in New Zealand;
- SPARX worked equally well for girls and boys and older and younger youths;
- SPARX worked equally well across the age group of 12 to 19 years;
- SPARX appeared to work better when users completed at least half of the modules (i.e. at least four levels)
- Most young people completed at least half of SPARX and this compared very well with other similar programs; and
- Most participants found SPARX useful, believed it would appeal to other teenagers and would recommend it to their friends.