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1500 teens sign up for SPARX

1500 teens sign up for SPARX

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

SPARX is a self-help online program 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 Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project, SPARX was developed by a team of researchers and clinicians at the University of Auckland.

“What makes SPARX unique is that it combines interactive computer gaming technology with proven therapy strategies, while a large clinical trial has shown it is a very effective self-help tool for young people aged 12 to 19 who are depressed,” says Dr Sally Merry, Associate Professor in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Auckland, who led the team that created SPARX. “Reaching more than 1500 teenagers in six months is an exciting milestone”, she says.

Dr Merry says that although depression is common in young people, it is often not picked up.
“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,” says Dr 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.”

Dr Merry says it is fitting to mark the six-month anniversary of the launch of SPARX during Mental Health Awareness Week.

“The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week this year is Keep Learning, which fits in perfectly with the philosophy behind SPARX – which is to enable young people to learn skills to deal with the thoughts and feelings keeping them down,” she says.

“It’s important for teens to build their resilience and to develop the skills to self-manage their emotions and moods. SPARX enables young people to acquire those skills in their own time through an online medium that appeals to them.”

SPARX can be accessed free of charge by anyone in New Zealand at

Mental Health Awareness Week is organised by the Mental Health Foundation and takes place from 6 to 15 October with events and activities planned across New Zealand. To learn more visit:


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