Hundreds of teens sign up for mental health programme

More than 1500 young New Zealanders have signed up to use the e-therapy tool Sparx since it launched six months ago.

Teenager online Source: Breakfast

The self-help online programme is designed to teach young people aged 12 to 19 the skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed.

Launched in April as part of the youth mental health project, Sparx was developed by a team of researchers and clinicians at Auckland University.

Sparx combines interactive computer gaming technology with proven therapy strategies and a large clinical trial has shown it is an effective self-help tool for young people who are depressed.

"Reaching more than 1500 teenagers in six months is an exciting milestone," says associate professor Sally Merry. "Having more than 1500 teenagers who have signed up to Sparx represents a large number of young people who are looking for and accessing help."

Although depression is common in young people, it is often not picked up, Dr Merry says.

"It's not unusual for teenagers to get stuck feeling down - one in five Kiwis will have experienced depression by the time they are 18, but three quarters will not see a mental health professional.

"It's important for teens to build their resilience and to develop the skills to self-manage their emotions and moods."

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from October 6-15 with events and activities planned across New Zealand