Technology — 16 March 2016

THERE is nothing imaginary about teen angst — just ask any 16-year-old. But youth mental health organisation ReachOut believes it has developed a game that might help.

Orb, available for computers and tablets, is a fun yet serious way for Year 9 and 10 students to tackle negative thinking patterns.

The game was trialled with four Sydney schools last year, including St Ignatius’ Riverview, before it launched last month.

“At the very start we were a bit sceptical about Orb, thinking it was just going to be another lesson,” Riverview student Hamish Williams (pictured) said.

“But once we got into it the game was enjoyable and discreet in the way it got us thinking positive.”

Students begin the game by creating an avatar who travels through a digital world — known as Orb — that has been taken over by The Glitch, a negative force.

“You meet different characters who have been overcome by negativity and each has a different struggle; some have lost family members, some you need to help to start exercising,” Mr Williams explained.

“You have a conversation and the only way to help them and move forward is by engaging in positive talk.”

The 16-year-old thought the game had a lasting effect on him and his peers, saying: “It really changed the mood … everyone seemed more open to new things.”

That is exactly what Dr Kerrie Buhagiar likes to hear.

“The game is based on a range of positive psychology principals, such as creating meaning in life and building constructive relationships, that can be implemented in real life to help students build resilience,” Dr Buhagiar, director of service delivery at ReachOut, said.

Dr Buhagiar emphasised that the game was intended to help students “flourish” and was not a treatment for mental illness.

“We’re trying to help them be the best they can be,” she said.

ReachOut Orb is illustrative of Australia’s digital education revolution, with computers, tablets and information technology being used in classrooms more than ever.

Dr Buhagiar said digital offerings were now a key part of students’ learning expectations.

“It’s an important aspect of their lives,” she said.

Hamish Williams agreed.

“Digital is definitely a positive way to get boys thinking about mental health,” he said.

“We engage in the game for its strategy and the competitive factor but then you look back and realise how much you’ve learned.”

Orb is created by ReachOut with the Telstra Foundation and Sydney digital agency Soap

Visit ReachOut.com/Orb

This article first appeared on ‘News Local’ on 13 March 2016.

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