For young people

Is SPARX a game?

SPARX looks like a game but actually it’s a self-help tool, designed to help young people with mild to moderate depression.

At the beginning of each level of SPARX you meet the Guide who talks to you about real life and what you will learn.

You then go through a portal into the ‘game world’ where you will learn and practice skills in a fantasy environment. After that you come back to the Guide to work out how to use the skills in real life. This means SPARX may feel more like a game than counselling or therapy, but it’s actually an e-therapy tool.

How does it work?

SPARX uses proven therapeutic skills in a game like way. Instead of reading about new ways of doing things from a book, or talking with someone, you will see new ways of thinking and acting and lets you try them out in safe way.

SPARX uses multiple learning strategies, including fun and active ways of learning. The main kind of therapy is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT is one of the main recommended treatments for young people (and adults) with depression. Research has shown that CBT helps support people with depression and anxiety.

SPARX can help you learn how to have Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts!

Would SPARX help me?

If you are feeling depressed, down, worried or stressed or just not enjoying life much at the moment SPARX could help you. To get the most out of SPARX you should do one or two levels a week, do all the exercises and practise the skills in real life. Even if you start to feel better it’s worth doing all seven levels of SPARX so you can get the most out of it. If you like, you can share what you have learnt with someone you trust. Ask them to help you practise or remind you of the new skills you’ve learnt.

No one thing will work for everyone, so if you feel very down, stressed or you’ve tried SPARX and you’re not feeling better, then check out our Get Help Now section to find out how and where to get help.


If you are having any thoughts about hurting or killing yourself, you need to reach out and talk with someone who is trained to help right now: Free phone 0508 4 SPARX (0508 477 279) / free text to 3110.

Call 111 if you or someone else might be unsafe right now.

You can try SPARX alongside getting Help Now. Remember you are not alone, there’s always someone to talk with and life does get better.

How do I get the most out of SPARX?

We reckon it’s better to do SPARX bit by bit over a few weeks rather than playing SPARX all at once. That way it is better that you do SPARX over a period of time, completing one or two levels a week, rather than doing it all at once. You can then practice have a go at using the skills you’ve learnt with SPARX in real life before heading to the next level! The skills in real life before moving onto the next level.

What can I do to start feeling better?

There are heaps of different ways that can help you feel better and using lots of strategies to help you feel better and using SPARX is a great place to start!

If you’re looking for other things to try, check out our Get Help Now section or try some of these ideas:

  • Have something to do each day. It might be something fun, starting a course or completing your chores.
  • Build up your skills. Learn a new skill or – get good at something! It might be music, sports, work skills or anything positive that you enjoy doing in your spare time.
  • Keep fit. Exercise, so that you build up a sweat, for half an hour or more, about three times a week. This can activate the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain.
  • Connect with people. Connect with family/whānau or mates, connect with your own culture or church or spend time with people who believe in you.
  • Talk and listen. Talking with someone like a counsellor, a teacher, a friend, a GP or a youth worker can help.
  • One by one and bit by bit, solve problems that are getting you down. Deal with one problem at a time and get someone to help if it’s hard.
  • Keep life in balance. Try having some fun, do some work, and be kind to others each every day. Healthy exercise, avoiding alcohol and drugs and getting enough sleep can help you feel better.
  • Get help if you need it. There are lots of people who are able and willing to help you.

Asking for help can be scary, but also rewarding! Counselling or therapy can be a great way to start feeling better.

Try speaking to a counsellor, doctor or youth worker. Or, if it’s easier you can call a helpline (like 0508 4 SPARX (0508 477 279), or free text 3110) or use online resources like The Lowdown. For some people taking medication like antidepressants can help. Talk with a doctor if you would like to know more.

What is depression?

Everyone goes through tough times where they feel sad or down. It can be triggered by an event like dealing with stress, disappointments or grief but sometimes there’s no noticeable trigger.

Here are some signs that you, or someone you know, you or someone you know might be depressed:

  • Feeling down, sad or depressed and not enjoying things you used to enjoy;
  • The negative feelings happen for most of the day, almost every day for at least a couple of weeks; and, it’s getting in the way of normal everyday life, school, family or working life.

If you are having negative feelings, we reckon you should talk to someone who can help you. If you feel bad because of something upsetting or nasty happening to you, find someone who can help. This could be a family/whānau member, a health professional, or an adult who you can trust.

Sometimes our physical health (like our body lacking important nutrients) can make us have no energy and feel bad too. Have a chat with your doctor if you think your physical health might be making you feel bad. You can also have no energy and feel bad for other reasons – like an illness or another health issue (such as being low in iron). You can check this out with a health professional.

The most important thing to remember is that if you’re feeling down or depressed, you are not alone!

Many people of us have times of feeling depressed or anxious and there are lots of things you can do to help yourself to feel better. Talk with an adult who you can trust, speak with your school counsellor, see your doctor, or try SPARX. There are also lots of other places online to check out, or check out online resources, like The Lowdown.

Remember you are not alone, there’s always someone to talk with and life does get better. If this is an emergency phone 111 or go to your local Emergency Department.

Alternatively, you can free phone 0508 4 SPARX (0508 477 279) / free text to 3110 to speak to a trained counsellor or health professional. For further resources, check out our Get Help Now section or see below. If you’d like to give SPARX a try, click here.