WHAT IS SPARX?
SPARX is a computer program that helps young people with mild to moderate depression. It can also help if you’re feeling anxious or stressed. If you want to know if SPARX is right for you, complete the Mood Quiz. It 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. You can do CBT with a counsellor or a psychologist but you can also learn CBT skills from SPARX. All you need is a computer 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 lots of research to show that CBT helps.
SPARX can help you learn how to have Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts!
HOW DOES SPARX WORK?
At the start of SPARX you will meet the Guide. The Guide explains what SPARX is and how it could help you. You will then customise your avatar and journey to the seven provinces to complete quests that restore the world's balance and defeat the pesky negative thoughts, called Gnats. Along the way, you will meet different characters, solve puzzles and complete mini games.
As you complete each quest, the Guide will explain how you can use your new skills to feel better, solve problems and enjoy life in the real world.
Each level takes about half an hour. Try doing one or two levels each week.
SPARX is made to help young people who are feeling down, depressed or anxious. If you want to see if SPARX is right for you, take our mood quiz.
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 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.
For more information about our research, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
INFORMATION FOR PARENTS
SPARX is a computerised self-help program designed for 12-19 year olds. It was tested with 187 youths from around New Zealand. Our research found that SPARX helped teenagers who were feeling down, depressed or anxious. Most young people who started the programme finished it and in general most found SPARX to be very helpful. Your child can use SPARX as well as getting other types of help. If your child might be unsafe or suicidal, get help now. We welcome you to try out SPARX and see what it is all about.
AWARDS FOR SPARX
UN and Netexplo awards for SPARX
SPARX won an international digital award from Netexplo, a ‘global observatory on digital society’, hosted by UNESCO. The awards were presented for projects that Netexplo call “the 10 most innovative and promising digital initiatives of the year”.
SPARX also won a 2011 World Summit Award in the category of e-Health and Environment. The World Summit Awards honour excellence in multimedia and e-Content creation. Forty winners (five in each category) are selected from 100 countries. The World Summit Awards are under the auspices of United Nations.
SPARX CREATORS & TEAM
Behind the SPARX project is a team of researchers and clinicians from The University of Auckland.
SPARX was created by Associate Professor Sally Merry, Dr Karolina Stasiak, Dr Theresa (Terry) Fleming, Dr Matt Shepherd and Dr Mathijs Lucassen.
Associate Professor Sally Merry is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Head of Department of Psychological Medicine and Director of The Werry Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Dr Stasiak also coordinated the main study of SPARX.
Drs Fleming, Shepherd and Lucassen also carried out doctoral studies of SPARX.
Metia Interactive developed the game. The National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) at University of Auckland hosts and supports SPARX online.