Young adolescents’ interest in a mental health casual video game
journal contributionposted on 02.09.2020 by Russell Pine, Kylie Sutcliffe, Simon McCallum, Theresa Fleming
Any type of content formally published in an academic journal, usually following a peer-review process.
Background Mental distress and disorders among adolescents are well documented. Despite the array of treatments available, many mental health issues remain untreated and often undiagnosed. In an attempt to narrow the treatment gap, researchers have adapted existing mental health interventions into digital formats. Despite their efficacy in trial settings, however, real-world uptake of digital mental health interventions is typically low. Casual video games (CVGs) are popular among adolescents and may be a promising tool to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Aim We set out to explore young adolescents’ views of CVGs and their opinions of mental health CVG prototypes, to help determine whether this idea warrants further investigation. Methods Pen and paper feedback forms following a brief presentation to 13–15-year-old adolescents in seven high schools (n = 207) followed by more detailed focus groups (n = 42) and workshops (n = 21) with interested students. Findings Across all three methods, participants reported playing CVGs several times a week or day to help relieve stress, feel more relaxed and relieve boredom. Most were also interested in the idea of a mental health CVG. Participants in focus groups and workshops confirmed that playing CVGs was common among themselves and their peers, and that the idea of a CVG with subtle and brief mental health content such as game-linked ‘micro messages’ was appealing. Participants recommended that the game should have an engaging interface and subtle mental health skills and information. Conclusions Findings from this exploratory study suggest that the concept of a mental health CVG appears to be appealing to adolescents. This novel approach should be tested.