JMIR Publications

JMIR Preprints


Currently submitted to: JMIR Serious Games

Date Submitted: Aug 16, 2017
Open Peer Review Period: Aug 17, 2017 - Oct 12, 2017

NOTE: This is an unreviewed Preprint

Views of indigenous young people about SPARX, a computerized e-mental health program

  • Matthew Shepherd; 
  • Sally Merry; 
  • Ian Lambie; 
  • Andrew Thompson



Globally, depression is a major health issue. This is true for indigenous adolescents, yet there is little research conducted about the efficacy and development of psychological interventions for these populations. In New Zealand there is little known about taitamariki (Māori adolescent) opinions regarding the development and effectiveness of psychological interventions, let alone computerized cognitive behavioural therapy. SPARX is a computerized intervention developed in New Zealand to treat mild to moderate depression in young people. It was designed to appeal to all young people in New Zealand, and incorporates a number of images and concepts that are specifically Māori.


To conduct an exploratory qualitative study of Māori adolescents’ opinions about the SPARX program. This is a follow-up to an earlier study where taitamariki opinions’ were gathered to inform the design of a computerized cognitive behaviour therapy (cCBT) program.


Taitamariki were interviewed using a semi-structured interview once they had completed work the SPARX resource. Six participants agreed to complete the interview; these interviews ranged from 10 to 30 minutes.


Taitamariki participating in the interviews found SPARX to be helpful. The Māori designs were appropriate and useful, and the ability to customize the SPARX characters with Māori designs was beneficial and appeared to enhance cultural identity. These helped young people to feel engaged with SPARX which, in turn, assisted with the acquisition of relaxation and cognitive restructuring skills. Overall using SPARX led to improved mood and increased tlevels of hope for the participants. In some instances, SPARX was used by wider whānau (Māori word for family) members with reported good effect.


Overall, this small group of taitamariki reported that cultural designs made it easier for them to engage with SPARX, which, in turn, led to an improvement in their mood and gave them hope. Further research is needed about how SPARX could be best used to support the families of taitamariki.


Ethics approval was granted by the Northern Regional Y committee (NTY/09/01/003) of the New Zealand Ministry of Health.