Intersex adolescents seeking help for their depression: The case study of SPARX in New Zealand

Lucassen, Mathijs; Perry, Yael; Frampton, Christopher; Fleming, Theresa; Merry, Sally; Shepherd, Matthew and Stasiak, Karolina (2021). Intersex adolescents seeking help for their depression: The case study of SPARX in New Zealand. Australasian Psychiatry, 29(4)



Objective: SPARX is a computerised cognitive behavioural therapy self-help program for adolescent depression that is freely available in New Zealand. At registration users identify themselves as either male, female, intersex or transgender. We aimed to describe the mental health of adolescent intersex users.

Method: A secondary analysis of SPARX usage data over five years.

Results: Of the 8,922 adolescents users 0.6% (n=50) identified as intersex. Based on Patient Health Questionnaire 9 – modified for Adolescents (PHQ-A) results, 78.3% of intersex users had high levels of depression and/or self-harm and suicidal ideation. The mean PHQ-A scores for intersex users were significantly higher than for males and females (p<0.001). As only 3 intersex users completed SPARX Level 4 or more (of the 7-Level program) we were unable to meaningfully investigate any reductions in their depressive symptoms over time.

Conclusions: There is a dearth of empirical data on the mental health of intersex adolescents. These results suggest that intersex adolescents seeking help from an online resource have high mental health needs compared with other young people, possibly because they defer seeking help.

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