iPhone game adds light touch to fight bad moods

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2011, 12:00am


As a tech-savvy way of raising public awareness about mental health problems, developers yesterday launched a new mobile-phone game that teaches users more about mood and anxiety disorders.

The Hong Kong Familylink Mental Health Advocacy Association, which created the free application for iPhones and iPads, said the game - called Jiu Jik Family - was part of its mass education campaign against illnesses that affect many people.

'The objective of creating the first mood health game is that we see the need to increase public knowledge of mood disorders like general anxiety disorder (GAD) in Hong Kong,' said Michael Chow, the association's vice-president.

Mood disorder is estimated to affect one in every 25 people in Hong Kong. Experts warn against taking the problem lightly, saying one afflicted family member can negatively impact his or her kin.

'Through mass education, we hope that fewer and fewer families will suffer from GAD and the mutual support among family members can be strengthened,' Chow said.

The cartoonish Jiu Jik Family, available on the Apple App Store, features challenges where users can learn about common symptoms, causes and treatment of mood disorders. There are also questionnaires to assess people's moods.

Psychiatry specialist Dr Ng Kong-man said mood disorders could pass unnoticed, with GAD symptoms like anxiety easily passed off as stress.

'When a family member feels anxious, his or her family usually thinks he or she is a worrywart and will just tell [the person] to relax,' he said. '[But] telling someone with GAD to relax will just make him or her more anxious.'

Without proper treatment, GAD - caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain - can lead to depression and other serious complications, Ng said. It can be treated with medicine and cognitive behaviour therapy.

Earlier studies show about 4.1 per cent of Hong Kong's population, or around 287,000 people, have GAD.