Applied gaming offers more and more possibilities when it comes to the prevention and treatment of mental disorders in youth. At the same time, there are also limits to what is possible with the use of gaming. These were the core conclusions of a recent network meeting in Nemo in Amsterdam on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Trimbos Institute.

Games To Help Manage Mental Health Problems Among Youth

All kinds of gaming, from simulation games to other brain games (free download from https://gs2us.com/games/tr/) are used for support in the treatment of both physical and mental health problems. For example, a blended lifestyle program with the use of ‘ serious gaming’ can keep employees and diabetics healthy for longer.

The Medisch Spectrum Twente recently opened the interactive playground AirPlay at the outpatient clinic, AirPlay, which combines exercise and monitoring of asthma patients. Playing a digital game should help the patients to exercise more and stay healthier. Furthermore, it is investigated how gaming can help children with SPD (sensory problems) to better control their impulses , for example.

Applied Games Mental Health Approach

In recent years, more and more scientists and psychologists are discovering the power of games to tackle mental health problems. According to the Trimbos Institute, recent research shows that specially made therapeutic video games can reduce (anxiety) complaints in children. Games can be used at schools, mental health and youth care institutions, general practitioners, but also hospitals and companies.

But in addition to opportunities, there are also challenges. How are the development and application of serious or applied games financed? How can these games be scaled up and widely used?

Below are some summaries of speakers:

Rutger Engels, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Trimbos Institute and faculty professor at Utrecht University, discussed applied games and their effect on mental health in his introduction. He mainly showed what the possibilities are: both very specific for mental health care (for example aimed at anxiety symptoms in autism or the treatment of PTSD) to quite broad, such as aimed at breathing.

Kors van der Ent, pediatric lung specialist and chair of Child Health Program UMC Utrecht, recognizes the importance of applied games in his work with children with chronic diseases. Where the focus has long been on curing the disease, applied games mainly contribute to improving the quality of life of these children.

Evert Hoogendoorn, strategist and game designer IJsfontein, gave a look at the possibilities and challenges of applied gaming. He also emphasized the added value of games, because it allows you to try out or experience things that you would not be able or dare to do in ‘real life’.

Anouk Tuijnman, PhD candidate at Radboud University Nijmegen and Trimbos Institute, talked about Moving Stories. The game was developed by the Trimbos Institute and IJsfontein to give young people in secondary schools first aid skills and reduce the stigma surrounding depression. Experience expert, Martine de Jong, shared her experience about the discussion that she holds at schools to round off the game.

Lieke Wijnhoven, a mental health psychologist in training and a PhD student in mental health care East Brabant, discussed the effect of the applied game MindLight on anxiety symptoms in children with autism. MindLight is a neurofeedback video game for children between the ages of 8 and 12 with anxiety symptoms.