OXFORD UNI: Video games can help with mental health problems during lockdown

Local neuroscientists tested the theory with frontline healthcare workers and a game of Tetris.

Playing video games during the pandemic can help NHS staff deal with the traumatic scenes confronting them daily, as they fight to keep COVID-19 patients alive. 

That's according to a team of researchers from Oxford University's Department of Psychiatry.

They've developed an app called DISTRACTOR, which incorporates the puzzle game Tetris. 

It provides daily reminders to play the game, but can also track a player's anxiety symptoms to monitor their mental health. 

The Oxford team studied the effects of trauma on patients and staff at Accident and Emergency units.  

Patients and medics in a position to play the Tetris game for 12 - 13 minutes within the first six hours, suffered fewer trauma-related memories, according to the study.

"National Health Service staff are fighting a frontline battle with COVID-19. They are witnessing some very distressing scenes and they are worried about their own safety and that of their families while they do their job," said Dr Gerard Dawson. 

"The original research carried out in Oxford encouraged us to incorporate DISTRACTOR into our mental health digital platform, i-spero, providing a therapy which helps ease the effects of trauma." 

Dr Dawson, whose digital healthcare company P1vital Products developed i-spero, a patient friendly platform to support mental health and well-being, explained it was the result of major research in the UK and Europe. 

"This is a major breakthrough in helping with mental health problems, especially at this time of lockdown when many feel isolated and helpless."

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