SPARX, an interactive video game in which significantly depressed adolescents shoot down “GNATs” (Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts) in a quest to restore the balance in a fantasy world is as effective at reducing anxiety and depression than standard therapy. 187 adolescents at 24 primary healthcare sites in New Zealand either played SPARX or received treatment-as-usual over a period of four to seven weeks. At three-month follow-up remission rates were significantly higher in the SPARX arm (43.7%) than in treatment-as-usual (26.4%). “Around 80 percent of young people with depression never get treatment,” said lead author Sally N. Merry. “When you do the calculations of how many therapists you need to meet that need, it’s enormous.” Results are in the British Medical Journal.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.