Social Games as Prevention Tools for Depression in Young Adolescents

Project Lead Category Project status
Anouk Tuijnman Depression Recruitment

In my PhD project I study social games for the prevention of depression. In my project I take part in both the development and testing of games. I want to use video games to help youth become more emotionally resilient and to decrease the stigma that surrounds depression. I do this in close collaboration with other researchers and game designers. I am particularly interested in games that are played in a social context, because I believe that both social threat and social support are key factors in the development and maintenance of depression.

Project team

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17-08-2018

Rejection Sensitivity (Scroll Quest, Stray and BrightVoid) 

Humans have evolved a tendency to reject certain groups of people and develop behaviour to avoid such rejection to occur [1]. Rejection and responses to rejection are part of human nature, but a problem occurs when people are overly sensitive to rejection (even when it's not there) and/or are continuously exposed to rejection. Prolonged stress that follows (perceived) social threat (like rejection) has severe physiological consequences [2], and can lead to sensitivity to rejection [3-6], which in turn has been linked to many mental health problems [5; 7-9]. Rejection sensitivity is “the disposition to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and overreact to rejection” [10, p. 1335]. In this PhD project we are developing games in which adolescents are exposed to rejection to help them overcome their sensitivity to it to prevent further problems to occur. One of these games is ScrollQuest, a multiplayer co-op game in which four players have to work together to defeat monsters and find gold. Other games (Stray and BrightVoid) are being developed by game design students at the Glasgow Caledonian University.

 

Mental Health Literacy (Moving Stories)

Between 66 and 82% of young people who are experiencing severe symptoms of depression or anxiety don’t seek professional help. The main reasons range from perceived stigma and embarrassment, to a preference for self-reliance and low mental health literacy [11-12]. The game Moving Stories aims to target mental health literacy to increase symptom recognition and improve help-seeking behaviour. At the same time, the game tries to decrease stigma by giving young people more information about mental health problems and bringing them into (digital and physical) contact with someone who has experienced a depression.

 The game is based on the Australian Mental Health First Aid training, a programme that was developed to teach adults help-seeking strategies and supportive behaviours to use when they know someone who is suffering from mental health problems. A recent meta-analysis shows that the programme results in a decrease of negative attitudes and an increase of knowledge and supportive behaviours towards others with mental health problems [13]. Recently, the developers of Mental Health First Aid created a version specifically for adolescents (‘teen Mental Health First Aid). A first pilot shows promising results [14]. Moving Stories incorporates the five-point action plan of the training for adolescents and translates specific first aid messages [15] to actions in the game. Moving Stories is being developed by the game design company IJsfontein in close collaboration with the Trimbos Institute, 113online and the Radboud University Nijmegen.

21%

One study showed that 21% of children overestimate or accurately perceive rejection by peers [16].

66%

At least 66% of young people experiencing severe anxiety or depressive symptoms don't seek help [11]

30%

About 30% of my gaming experiences consist of finding every little secret or nook in a game.

Publications

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Project team

Anouk Tuijnman title=
Anouk Tuijnman

Clinical child psychologist and PhD Candidate interested in gamedesign, -research and –play. Also known as: Game Night General; World Traveler; Pokémon Master.

Function

PhD-Candidate

Contact

E-mail Anouk

Isabela Granic title=
Isabela Granic

Professor and Chair of the Developmental Psychopathology department in the Behavioural Science Institute; writer; voracious podcast consumer; mother of two upstanding little gamers

Function

Director of GEMH Lab

Contact

E-mail Isabela

Rutger Engels title=
Rutger Engels

Function

CEO at Trimbos Institute / Professor Developmental Psychopathology Utrecht University

Contact

E-mail Rutger

Marloes Kleinjan title=
Marloes Kleinjan

Function

Program Head Epidemiology & Research support at Trimbos Institute / Professor Youth Mental Health Promotion Utrecht University

Contact

E-mail Marloes

Sources

All sources
  1. Leary, M., & Cottrell, C. (2013). Evolutionary perspectives on interpersonal acceptance and rejection. In C. N. DeWall (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of social exclusion (pp. 9–19). New York: Oxford University Press.
  2. Slavich, G. M., & Irwin, M. R. (2014). From stress to inflammation and major depressive disorder: A social signal transduction theory of depression. Psychological bulletin, 140(3), 774-815.
  3. Butler, J. C., Doherty, M. S., & Potter, R. M. (2007). Social antecedents and consequences of interpersonal rejection sensitivity. Personality and Individual Differences, 43(6), 1376-1385.
  4. Feldman, S. I., & Downey, G. (1994). Rejection sensitivity as a mediator of the impact of childhood exposure to family violence on adult attachment behavior. Development and Psychopathology, 6(1), 231-247.
  5. London, B., Downey, G., Bonica, C., & Paltin, I. (2007). Social causes and consequences of rejection sensitivity. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 17(3), 481-506.
  6. Rowe, S. L., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Rudolph, J., & Nesdale, D. (2015). A longitudinal study of rejecting and autonomy-restrictive parenting, rejection sensitivity, and socioemotional symptoms in early adolescents. J Abnorm Child Psychol, 43(6), 1107-1118.
  7. Downey, G., Lebolt, A., Rincón, C., & Freitas, A. L. (1998). Rejection sensitivity and children's interpersonal difficulties. Child development, 69(4), 1074-1091.
  8. Marston, E. G., Hare, A., & Allen, J. P. (2010). Rejection sensitivity in late adolescence: Social and emotional sequelae. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 20(4), 959-982.
  9. Sandstrom, M. J., Cillessen, A. H., & Eisenhower, A. (2003). Children's appraisal of peer rejection experiences: Impact on social and emotional adjustment. Social Development, 12(4), 530-550.
  10. Downey, G., & Feldman, S. I. (1996). Implications of rejection sensitivity for intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(6), 1327-1343.
  11. Gulliver, A., Griffiths, K. M., & Christensen, H. (2010). Perceived barriers and facilitators to mental health help-seeking in young people: a systematic review. BMC psychiatry, 10(1), 1-9.
  12. Rickwood, D. J., Deane, F. P., & Wilson, C. J. (2007). When and how do young people seek professional help for mental health problems. Med J Aust, 187(7 Suppl), S35-S39.
  13. Hadlaczky, G., Hökby, S., Mkrtchian, A., Carli, V., & Wasserman, D. (2014). Mental Health First Aid is an effective public health intervention for improving knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour: A meta-analysis. International Review of Psychiatry, 26(4), 467-475.
  14. Hart, L. M., Mason, R. J., Kelly, C. M., Cvetkovski, S., & Jorm, A. F. (2016). ‘teen Mental Health First Aid’: a description of the program and an initial evaluation. International journal of mental health systems, 10(1), 1-18.
  15. Ross, A. M., Hart, L. M., Jorm, A. F., Kelly, C. M., & Kitchener, B. A. (2012). Development of key messages for adolescents on providing basic mental health first aid to peers: a Delphi consensus study. Early intervention in psychiatry, 6(3), 229-238
  16. Zimmer-Gembeck, M.J., Hunter, T.A., & Pronk, R. (2007). A model of behaviors, peer relations and depression: Perceived social acceptance as a mediator and the divergence of perceptions. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26(3), 273-302.

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