Mobile game to help with anxiety in children receives medical approval

A mobile app designed to help children who suffer from anxiety has received approval from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Lumi Nova is a game aimed at seven to 12-year-olds who suffer from paediatric anxiety.

The app was created by BfB Labs, having been funded by an NHS England programme and developed in partnership with the Anxiety and Depression in Young People (AnDY) Research Clinic at the University of Reading and MindTech UK.

Concerns have been raised that anxiety in children, already made worse by the coronavirus lockdown, could be further exacerbated as children return to school.

BfB Labs said that in an initial, small-scale pilot in March, Lumi Nova was found to be effective in treating the symptoms of anxiety.

The game uses exposure therapy to help young people face their anxieties, such as speaking in front of a group or a fear of dogs or spiders.

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Set in space, it invites players to explore new worlds and solve mysteries, tying in exposure to their fears over a series of levels to help them get used to the feeling and help them better control their anxiety over time.

Dr Claire Hill, clinical psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Reading, said: “We must act urgently to mobilise evidence-based interventions to tackle anxiety in our most vulnerable children and young people at this extraordinary time of crisis and particularly now that schools have reopened.

“Untreated anxiety can lead to depression, self-harm, and other life-long consequences.”

“Lumi Nova is an engaging game that has demonstrated safety and is an important exemplar as the first MHRA-approved mobile game for paediatric anxiety that gamifies exposure – the key component of CBT, the gold standard for treating anxiety – and should be considered for implementation by schools, local authorities and in routine clinical care.”

BfB Labs chief executive Manjul Rathee said: “At BfB Labs, we are committed to building future mental healthcare for children today with evidence-based interventions that are not only accessible and affordable but also treat conditions in an entirely new and engaging way.

“During this time of urgent need for digital mental health solutions that can respond to soaring demand, we are extremely proud to enable NHS Integrated Care Systems and Clinical Commissioning Groups, schools, and local authorities to provide Lumi Nova – a safe, flexible, and cost-effective solution.”