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Acceptability, feasibility, and preliminary evaluation of an animated VR game for reducing mental health stigma in health-care students and trainees: a mixed-method study

Mental Health and Digital Technologies

https://doi.org/10.1108/MHDT-03-2024-0010

This study aims to pilot-test the acceptability, feasibility, preliminary efficacy and user experience of an animated virtual reality (VR) game (“Goliath: Playing with Reality”) aimed at reducing stigma related to psychosis and schizophrenia among health-care students and trainees. A mixed-methods design [...]

Acceptability, feasibility, and preliminary evaluation of an animated VR game for reducing mental health stigma in health-care students and trainees: a mixed-method study

This study aims to pilot-test the acceptability, feasibility, preliminary efficacy and user experience of an animated virtual reality (VR) game (“Goliath: Playing with Reality”) aimed at reducing stigma related to psychosis and schizophrenia among health-care students and trainees.

A mixed-methods design was used. Sixteen trainee clinical psychologists with experience working with service users with psychosis/schizophrenia engaged with the VR game using a headset and controllers, and completed measures before and after. Quantitative measures assessing intervention acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility were collected and analysed descriptively. These were complemented by qualitative feedback on user experience, analysed through content analysis. Pre- and post-intervention mental health stigma-related measures were also collected and analysed inferentially.

Most participants found the VR game acceptable, appropriate and feasible for reducing mental health stigma. Although there were no significant changes in stigma-related measures, participants were impressed by the immersive storytelling and the symbolic portrayal of psychosis. Participants also valued the educational aspect, empathised with people living with psychosis/schizophrenia and experienced a range of emotional reactions. However, participants noted usability concerns, and suggestions for improvement were made.

This is one of the first studies to show the potential of “Goliath: Playing with Reality” as a mental health educational intervention for health-care students and trainees. Drawing on narrative theory and immersive-interactive storytelling techniques, the VR game provides experiences that can foster narrative engagement and emotional connection, potentially enhancing its effectiveness in mental health stigma reduction efforts.

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