WITH three in four trans and gender diverse young people experiencing mental health struggles, Subiaco researchers have been granted $70,000 to help prevent the onset of depression in the group with an innovative online game.
Chief investigator Yael Perry from the Telethon Kids Institute said trans youth were particularly high-risk when it comes to mental health.
“Seventy-five per cent of trans young people have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, 80 per cent have self-harmed, and almost one in two attempt suicide; the statistics floored me,” she said.
The figures were revealed by Telethon Kids’ Trans Pathways study, the largest study of trans and gender diverse young people in Australia.
Dr Perry’s background is in using digital technology to prevent mental illness, and the Healthway grant will enable her team to tailor the Auckland-based online interactive game SPARX for trans youth.
The researcher said games often had an immediate indication they would not be what trans young people identified with – for example, when players are prompted to choose a male or female character.
“It’s a fantasy-based game, you select and personalise an avatar that represents you,” she said.
“The aim is to restore peace and balance to the world, and it’s based on cognitive behavioural therapy.”
Skills focused on include keeping active, learning how to identify unhelpful thoughts and assertiveness.
About 24 trans young people from 11-18 years old will be brought on board in focus groups to test the game, recruited from local community organisations.
Dr Perry’s long-term aim is to have the resource easily available to young people.
“I’m trained as a clinical psychologist, and loved being able to have a direct impact; mixing clinical work and research means an even bigger impact, and I get to work closely with communities,” she said.
The $70,050 Healthway grant was part of $140,100 in grants to assist WA’s LGBTQI community with better mental health support.