SPARX; a new self-help online tool for young people
SPARX is a computerised self-help program designed for young people aged 12 to 19 with mild to moderate depression.
SPARX was developed by a team from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Auckland in consultation with young people and software designers. Research with young people who used SPARX showed SPARX helped young people who were feeling down, depressed or anxious to feel better. Young people reported they found SPARX to be very helpful, and they learnt self-help skills they could apply in order to feel better.
SPARX is unique as it incorporates a virtual fantasy setting with the use of graphics. Young people are also able to customise their virtual character. They then use this character to complete seven modules where they learn Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) skills, such as how to relax, talk to people about their feelings and how to solve problems.
CBT skills are about learning how to identify negative thoughts and to then replace these with more helpful thoughts. CBT is one of the recommended treatments for young people (and adults) with depression. There is a lot of research that shows CBT is an effective treatment for depression (as well as for treating many other mental health problems).
Researchers found that SPARX was able to teach young people skills to manage their low mood. Young people also reported they enjoyed using SPARX. Young people can use SPARX anytime, anywhere; all they need is a computer with access to the internet.
SPARX can be accessed by visiting www.sparx.org.nz and registering to use the program on the site. It’s free to use and completely confidential. The programme is currently working best on a Firefox browser. Our next version release in October will support other browsers, with use on mobile devices becoming available later in the year.
To find out more about SPARX, what it is & how it works, visit our YouTube page:
Or you can download our information flyer.