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Digital award for adolescent depression therapy

Media Release - University of Auckland - 14th February 2013

International digital award for adolescent depression therapy

SPARX, an e-therapy for adolescent depression, has won an international digital award from UNESCO’s Netexplo, a ‘global observatory on digital society’.

The prestigious Netexplo Awards will be made to 10 recipient projects in Paris on Friday during the Netexplo Forum, attended by 1300 people from 30 countries.

The awards will be presented for projects that Netexplo call “the ten most innovative and promising digital initiatives of the year”.

SPARX is a role-playing computer programme in a game format that helps adolescents recognise and manage their depression. The University of Auckland e-therapy research team worked with game development company Metia Interactive to create SPARX. A large clinical trial has shown that the approach is as effective as usual face to face treatment.

SPARX’s developers from The University of Auckland, led by Associate Professor Sally Merry (Head of Department for Psychological Medicine) together with SPARX study manager and Research Fellow, Dr Karolina Stasiak, will be in Paris for the Netexplo (UNESCO) awards this week.

“The initiatives recognised by Netexplo are extremely diverse as they concern society as a whole - a new digital civilisation,” says Netexplo’s expert committee chairman, Joel de Rosnay.

SPARX is the only award winner from Australasia (the others are from Belgium, China, America, the United Kingdom, Israel, South Africa and France), and was selected from 100 nominees worldwide. The final choice of the 10 Netexplo award winners for 2013 was determined by an international expert panel in December.

“The award is a great honour and adds further to the accolades for SPARX,” says Dr Mathijs Lucassen on behalf of Associate Professor Merry. “In 2012 SPARX was a World Summit Award winner under the auspices of the United Nations and the results of the SPARX randomised controlled trial were published in the British Medical Journal last year.”

Organised in partnership with UNESCO, the mission of the Netexplo Forum is to “give an audience of political, business and media executives’ insight into the most significant new uses of digital tech”.

The link for a video clip on the SPARX award, created by Netexplo is at:

More information about the awards is also available at:


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