A randomised control trial of Match Emoji

Digital tools for adolescent mental health

Mr Russell Pine, Victoria University

Psychological distress and disorders among adolescents in New Zealand are well documented. Although various treatments are available, many mental health issues remain untreated and often undiagnosed.

Using digital formats to provide mental health interventions

In an attempt to narrow the treatment gap, researchers have adapted existing mental health interventions into digital formats. Despite their efficacy in trial settings, real-world uptake is typically low.

Developing Match Emoji – a casual video game for mental health support

A promising way to address this low adherence is through casual video games (CVGs). CVGs, such as Angry Birds and Tetris, are among the most popular type of game worldwide. People play them for a variety of reasons, such as to relax or pass  time.

To understand the therapeutic potential of this idea, a multidisciplinary team at Victoria University , including psychologists and health experts, developed a CVG to support young adolescents with their mental health. It’s known as Match Emoji.

Prototype success leads to full development

The development involved a series of studies, including a systematic review to investigate the effects of CVGs on anxiety, depression, stress and low mood. There was also an exploratory study to gather young adolescents’ views of CVGs and their opinions of mental health CVG prototypes. Results from these studies suggested the Match Emoji prototype was promising and worthy of further development. A health delivery research activation grant allowed the team to engage professional developers to complete the game.

Cure Kids funds a randomised controlled trial

Cure Kids is funding a controlled trial evaluation of Match Emoji’s potential therapeutic effects. This will formally determine whether Match Emoji can be added to existing digital mental health tools for young people. The trial will also test the broader concept of using CVGs to engage people.