Tech company creates gamified mental health app for Ukrainian refugees
Children and teenagers affected by the conflict in Ukraine are to be given a computer game to help them deal with the things they have experienced in a war zone.
Attensi, a European digital learning specialist, is using its technology to help child victims of war, which according to UNICEF statistics is three million children inside Ukraine and over 2.2 million children in refugee-hosting countries. Almost two out of every three children are currently displaced by fighting.
Many have seen things no child should ever see, from their homes being destroyed to their schools being attacked, living in underground bunkers and families and communities rapidly fleeing for safety.
Helping Hand is a digital role-playing game, similar to the ones the technology company creates for businesses to train their teams around the world. It takes ‘players’ through a series of life-like scenarios in a computer game-style setting and offers them a range of responses to choose from.
It is designed to reinforce positive decision-making and to strengthen children’s resolve to ask for help when they need it. The gamified simulation training is specifically successful in helping teenage refugees deal with trauma.
Helping Hand has already helped 125 Syrian teenagers in Central Beqaa, Lebanon, who said that the game made them feel better and helped them maker better sense of their world. 28% of the adolescents reported what WHO classifies as ‘normal wellbeing’ before playing the game, while 99% reported normal wellbeing 10 weeks on.
The players averaged 45/100 on the WHO wellbeing index before playing the game. After the game, the figure had risen to 72 – indicating a significant, positive impact on their mental health.
Bjarne Johnson from Attensi was originally moved by the plight of the Syrian children he saw on the TV news and knew that Attensi could help. He initiated the project by reaching out to clinical psychologist Dr Solfrid Raknes, who pioneered The Psychological First Aid Kit in Lebanon, where the concept has been running for years.
Now Attensi has powered this concept with its gamified simulation tech, creating the Helping Hand app which has been developed collaboratively alongside partners including the publishing firm Gyldenal, the Norwegian Government and aid agencies.
After working successfully with aid agencies in Syria, Attensi is using funding from Innovation Norway to bring the technology to the millions of children affected by the ongoing Ukrainian conflict.
Says Bjarne Johnson:
“For these young kids and adolescents, talking about their well-being, how they are feeling, with adults or with strangers, can be quite frightening, so being able to play a computer game on their own, in a safe environment, can have a strong impact.”
Social aid workers will invite affected children to come and work through the app on portable devices like iPads, or signpost to those with devices that the app freely is available to download.