SPARX logo

28 April 2014
A new online mental health tool for young people in New Zealand has been launched by Prime Minster John Key. The online tool called SPARX, (which stands for smart, positive, active, realistic, X-factor thoughts) takes the form of an interactive fantasy game, in which young people are able to choose an avatar and undertake a series of challenges. The goal of SPARX is to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy by teaching the user how to deal with negative thoughts and feelings.

SPARX was developed by a research team led by Professor Sally Merry at the University of Auckland. As an e-therapy, SPARX has been found to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression in young people in New Zealand. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2012 showed a ‘clinically significant’ reduction in depression, anxiety and an improvement in quality of life, in young people who has used SPARX.

The Health Research Council of New Zealand, through its Research Partnerships for New Zealand Health Delivery (RPNZHD) initiative, awarded funding in 2012 to Professor Merry, in partnership with Kapiti Youth Support, to further develop and pilot an online version of SPARX to be used in clinical practice.

Click here for further information about the launch of SPARX.