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

Lucassen, M. F. G. ORCID: 0000-0001-6958-3468, Perry, Y., Frampton, C. , Fleming, T., Merry, S. N., Shepherd, M. & Stasiak, K. (2021). Intersex adolescents seeking help for their depression: the case study of SPARX in New Zealand. Australasian Psychiatry, 29(4), pp. 450-453. doi: 10.1177/1039856221992642


SPARX is a computerized cognitive behavioral 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.

A secondary analysis of SPARX usage data over 5 years.

Of the 8922 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 < .001). As only three intersex users completed SPARX Level 4 or more (of the seven-level program), we were unable to meaningfully investigate any reductions in their depressive symptoms over time.

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.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists 2021.This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page ( Request permissions for this article.
Publisher Keywords: adolescent, depression, intersex, diverse sex development, variations of sex characteristics
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
SWORD Depositor:
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