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Help a young person in need of support

SPARX is a self-help tool designed specially for young people (12-19 years) with mild to moderate depression. SPARX is not a clinical service. Clinical teams engaging with young people retain the duty of care.

How does SPARX work?

Teaching young people proven therapeutic skills

SPARX uses proven therapeutic skills in a game like way. Instead of a young person learning about new ways of doing things from reading a book, or talking with someone, SPARX uses multiple learning strategies, including fun and active ways of learning that young people can practice in a safe setting.

The main kind of therapy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is one of the main recommended treatments for people with depression. Research has shown that CBT helps with depression and anxiety.

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Studies & research

The results have been very positive

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 Māori, LGBTQIA+, and young people in Alternative Education.

For more information about our research, please view our publications.

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Quality of Life

Reduced depression and anxiety and improved quality of life.

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Ethnically Inclusive

Worked equally well across different ethnic groups in New Zealand.

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Gender & Age

Worked equally well for girls and boys and older and younger youths.

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Lasting Results

Changes in participants lasted for at least three months.


Things to know

How can I get help right now?

Free phone 0508 4 SPARX (0508 477 279) or free text 3110.

Call 111 if someone you know might be unsafe right now.

See Get Help Now for other options.

Someone can also have no energy and feel bad for other reasons – like if they’re sick or have other health issues (such as being low in iron). Make sure to check this out with a healthcare professional. For more information, head to The Lowdown.

What happens after SPARX?

If SPARX has helped them, keep up the good work and positive vibes by helping them practise their new skills in real life, every day. Or, if they feel confident enough, ask them to share what they’ve learnt, or simply remind them to stay on top of their skills regularly. 

If they’ve completed all levels and they’re still not feeling better, that’s okay! It just means their situation needs some personal time and attention. Talk to them about potentially getting some professional or medical help. 

Are there downsides to e-therapy?

While some worry that using a phone or computer programme might mean that young people are less likely to approach others and reach out for help, it’s actually quite the opposite! Computer programmes can help people learn how to ask for help and how to fully express their thoughts and feelings when the time’s right. 

How do I support someone using SPARX?

There are many ways to help – it all starts by simply making yourself available and willing to listen. It’s also very important that they know you want to help them, and you’re willing to support them.

First, ask them what support they would like. 
You could offer to:

  • Sign up for SPARX yourself so you can try it out and see how it works
  • Do SPARX alongside the person
  • Help them practise skills from SPARX
  • Help them deal with issues that are bothering them
  • Help them do some fun or positive things each day
  • Help them talk to a doctor, school health nurse, or counsellor

If you’re worried that someone who is using SPARX is not getting better head to our Get Help Now page for more resources. 

Remember: SPARX is not a crisis intervention and it’s not enough if someone is suicidal.


Who we’re working alongside

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SPARX is provided by The University of Auckland, and funded by the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project.

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The University of Nottingham UK is collaborating with UoA and SPARX to develop their own CBT programme for depressed UK youth.

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St John’s community education are piloting a programme to introduce SPARX to school age children.

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Trials are being run in Canada to test the effectiveness of a translated French/Canadian SPARX programme for youth in need.

Check it out for yourself

or sign up on behalf of someone else