A Serious Game to aid decision making in causes of depression

A Serious Game to aid decision making in causes of depression

By Dr. David Haniff

The NHS within the United Kingdom (UK) has suggested that 1 in 6 people will suffer from a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety and/or stress.  So we are looking at approximately 10 million people in the UK alone.  With annual price tag for the NHS being around £33 billion, with admittance to psychiatric wards, drugs etc.  Condition such as depression can also lead to physical problems such over-eating and high blood pressure.  So we believe that this is a huge problem.  In 2009 the ‘Pervasive Technology Lab (CIC)’ a non-profit organisation was created to investigate and produce technological solutions to predominantly help people with mental health issues.

Serious Games (computer games with a serious purpose) are a growing form of media to impart information to people in  a ‘fun’ and informal manner as well as being visually appealing.  Serious Games have been used to teach business skills, procurement and auditing.  The total games market worldwide is worth $10 billion and the average of a gamer is around 35 years old, and 40% of all gamers are women.  So as a form of education it has huge potential to meet a large audience.  In 2010 the organisation was awarded a grant with Milton Keynes Mind (a local mental health charity) to develop a computer game to help people with depression.  The computer game presents various scenarios that can trigger depression such as relationship problems or exam stress, you are given four options and you are then given visual feedback as to whether they have made the right choice.  In order to ascertain the triggers of depression and generally to understand the condition focus groups were held with Milton Keynes Mind counsellors and staff as well as counsellors from the Richmond Fellowship.

All of the counsellors were positive in the use of such a game to help their clients.  It was emphasised that the game is not intended to replace methods such as face-to-face counselling or group activities as we believe the social aspect of care is important to recovery.  It is more of an additional tool that can be used by the client in an informal manner and being web based it can be accessible anytime and anywhere.

Please see: http://www.pervasive-technology-lab.org/Serious_Game_for_Depression/deploy-to-web/Main.html for a demonstration. 

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