Canterbury teens top users of anti-depression video game

Canterbury teenagers are the highest users of a world-first, New Zealand developed, video game which helps combat depression and mental health issues.

Canterbury teens are the highest users of a video game which helps combat depression. Source: 1 NEWS

Professionals in the city say that's a reflection of the level of stress still in the community in the wake of the earthquakes.

It may look like a regular computer game where you shoot the bad guys and carry out tasks, but the video game called Sparx is actually electronic therapy.

"It's full of skills and tips to deal with feeling down and depressed," a character in the video explains.

Youth health specialist Sue Bagshaw told ONE News the video game is aimed at teenagers with mild to moderate depression, "so people who've got with low mood, who're feeling really fed up, they might be feeling angry".

She says it's a really good way of helping them to learn to control that mood.

For Brad Leuila, the video game meant less time in a counsellor's office.

"I can just lie in bed, chuck on some headphones, and no one even knows what I'm doing. People might just think I'm on Facebook or YouTube but I'm actually just helping myself," he says.

Since the game came online in April, nearly 800 young people have signed on and used it. One in five of those came from Canterbury.

Local counsellors are using it regularly to treat clients and are seeing results.

"Obviously, since the earthquakes there's high levels of stress. Young people are presenting to services a lot more," says Mark Radford, of St John of God Healthcare.

"I recall going and seeing one young person who just largely wasn't able to communicate with us. And we got him onto Sparx, went back and saw him a couple of weeks later and his mood had lifted. We would normally have struggled to work with a young person like that."