Project Title

Depression prevention by mutual empathy training: Using virtual reality gamification as a tool

Presenters

Songqiao YuFollow

Academic department under which the project should be listed

CCSE - Computer Science

Faculty Sponsor Name

Joy Li

Abstract (300 words maximum)

Abstract

The increasing number of diagnosed anxiety and depression has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to social alienation in modern life. Therapeutic intervention for depression using serious games is gaining popularity in recent years. However, the prevention for depression among people with sub-health status has not gained enough attention, and the avoidance of relapse depression under post-pandemic social alienation is ever more challenging. This paper proposes a novel approach to prevent depression and its recurrence through empathy training using interactive virtual reality game applications. Studies have suggested that the distortion of empathy of the patients is one of many causes of depression; meanwhile, the lack of empathy from social environment to the patients is another factor. Therefore, through gamification training in an interactive and immersive virtual environment, the concept of mutual empathy could be cultivated and fostered, consequently introduced to bridge the gap between intervention and prevention. The proposed study seeks to assist intervention by building mutual understanding and establishing healthy social connections. It reflects the feelings and struggles of both patients with depression and social support providers (family members, friends, or other people in the social network) through embodiment and engagement, in order to raise mutual understanding and empathy. Moreover, it trains the users to build appropriate empathy levels and construct better understanding on this mental disorder, thus it could be applied to prevent relapse or potential occurrence. The effectiveness of the game is assessed by several tailored measurement scales for internal and interpersonal reactivity. Neuroscientific methods can also be integrated to monitor the training progress. This study explores the possibility that VR games, as an empathy machine, can grow into a social network with interpersonal mutual and empathic support that benefits both prevention and intervention methods for depression.

Keywords: Virtual reality, human-computer interaction, serious games, empathy training, mental healthcare, depression.

Project Type

Event

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Depression prevention by mutual empathy training: Using virtual reality gamification as a tool

Abstract

The increasing number of diagnosed anxiety and depression has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to social alienation in modern life. Therapeutic intervention for depression using serious games is gaining popularity in recent years. However, the prevention for depression among people with sub-health status has not gained enough attention, and the avoidance of relapse depression under post-pandemic social alienation is ever more challenging. This paper proposes a novel approach to prevent depression and its recurrence through empathy training using interactive virtual reality game applications. Studies have suggested that the distortion of empathy of the patients is one of many causes of depression; meanwhile, the lack of empathy from social environment to the patients is another factor. Therefore, through gamification training in an interactive and immersive virtual environment, the concept of mutual empathy could be cultivated and fostered, consequently introduced to bridge the gap between intervention and prevention. The proposed study seeks to assist intervention by building mutual understanding and establishing healthy social connections. It reflects the feelings and struggles of both patients with depression and social support providers (family members, friends, or other people in the social network) through embodiment and engagement, in order to raise mutual understanding and empathy. Moreover, it trains the users to build appropriate empathy levels and construct better understanding on this mental disorder, thus it could be applied to prevent relapse or potential occurrence. The effectiveness of the game is assessed by several tailored measurement scales for internal and interpersonal reactivity. Neuroscientific methods can also be integrated to monitor the training progress. This study explores the possibility that VR games, as an empathy machine, can grow into a social network with interpersonal mutual and empathic support that benefits both prevention and intervention methods for depression.

Keywords: Virtual reality, human-computer interaction, serious games, empathy training, mental healthcare, depression.